Long Beach’s most well-known sports program embarked on a new era last week when Polytechnic High School named NFL linebacker and ESPN analyst Antonio Pierce head coach of the school’s prolific football team.
Pierce entered the NFL in 2001 and started playing with the New York Giants in 2005, leading the team in tackles and becoming a vital member of the 2007 team that won Super Bowl XLII before retiring in 2010 after a neck injury forced him off the field.
He takes over coaching duties from Raul Lara, a full-time juvenile probation officer who in the last 13 years, has led the Jackrabbits to 12 Moore League championships and five C.I.F. titles.
Though he does not have prior coaching experience, Pierce has worked at several football camps–including his own in Compton–and has experience working with young players there. He also grew up playing football for nearby Paramount High School and has a passion for helping inner-city youth, which, combined with his background as a professional player, made him a top candidate that the Poly administration said they couldn’t pass up.
“This isn’t a job where you get paid top dollar,” Pierce said after a press conference last Thursday. “I’m here because I love helping kids and if I can get all 22 of them every year to get full four-year academic scholarships, that’s what I’m here for.”
In addition to coaching at a school that has sent the most players to the NFL, Pierce will also have to juggle his work as an ESPN analyst as well as his duties as co-owner of two New Jersey auto dealerships. His son DeAndre will also be a junior defensive back at Poly next season.
“It’s going to be challenging. It isn’t going to be a cakewalk, so hopefully the kids are up for it,” Pierce told giants.com. “I know I’m up for it, because I think all eyes will be on the Long Beach team this year.”
According to the Press-Telegram, Poly fielded over 100 inquiries and received 55 formal applications for the head coach position, including two from current assistant coaches Jeff Turley and AJ Luke.
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