The dream of making it to the NFL consumes every player at the college level. For USF junior defensive end Shurron Pierson, it was a dream that could no longer wait.
That’s why Pierson declared early for the 2003 NFL Draft, making him the first player in the Bulls’ six-year history to leave prematurely for the NFL.
“I always had my plan of what to do with my life, and a lot of other people didn’t know,” Pierson said. “The reason I felt real comfortable with it is because it was something I wanted to do. It was something I feel real good about, and I don’t doubt myself in any kind of way.”
As Pierson was making his decision, he sought the counsel of agent Gene Burrough.
“I heard Shurron was considering coming out early, so he asked to speak with me,” Burrough said. “I did a little homework and found out he was pretty good. I saw some film and made some phone calls, and when he decided to come out, I picked him up. A lot of teams are looking at him because he’s an unusual talent.”
The writing was on the wall for Pierson’s decision before the season even started.
Coming off a record-setting sophomore year when he registered 10 sacks, Pierson went out and put up phenomenal numbers in the off-season. Pierson benched 225 pounds 32 times and ran a 4.4 40-yard dash, numbers that ranked him with the best players at the 2002 NFL Draft Combine. Pierson also possesses a 42 1/2-inch vertical leap and a 600-pound squat.
“That always was my plan, but when you make a plan you have to do things to make it work,” Pierson said. “I got focused, worked hard on and off the field, and it paid off for me.”
But when the 2002 season started, Pierson found himself splitting time with freshman Terrence Royal. His production slipped slightly from the year before as he picked up eight sacks (four against Southern Miss Oct. 12) and forced two fumbles.
Even without a breakthrough campaign to match his eye-popping off-field numbers, Pierson consulted with his mother and felt it was the right decision to enter the draft. However, not everyone was convinced, as Pierson didn’t get a good response from teammates and coaches.
“My mom, she always backed me up 120 percent with everything I decide,” Pierson said. “You know you are going to get input about reasons why you shouldn’t come out. Sometimes, you need advice like that from other people, but it all boils down to how you really feel personally.”
Right now, as a player out of smaller school, Pierson is being viewed as a middle round pick. But with the smaller, quicker ends dominating the league, like rookies Dwight Freeney of Indianapolis and Carolina’s Julius Peppers, there’s a chance that Pierson could move up the ladder.
“He’s an effective lineman who can create problems behind the line of scrimmage with his quickness and athleticism,” Mel Kiper said on his Web page on ESPN.com. “A good natural pass-rusher. Draft outlook: Rounds four to six.”
On his way to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis Feb. 18, Pierson and his agent said things are only going to improve for the former Bull.
“He’s run a 4.38, 4.4,” Burrough said. “That makes him an unusual talent, anytime a lineman runs that fast … In fact, that might make him the fastest end in the whole league. And with quarterbacks who can run, like Michael Vick, you need one who can chase them down. He wants to play rush end, more like a Lawrence Taylor or a Simeon Rice, but faster.
“Once he does that, he’ll be a household name in the NFL.”