August 07, 2022
Recruiting


Recruiting

CCL/ESCC recruiting notes: Brother Rice’s Roderick Pierce III grateful to hold 9 scholarship offers

Brother Rice's Roderick Pierce is one of the top-ranked high school players in the class of 2023.

Every offer Roderick Pierce III receives still feels like a surreal moment, no matter how many he gets.

The Brother Rice defensive lineman used to go online, look up the top-rated high school football players in Illinois and count the offers they had.

Now, two years later, Pierce is one of the top-rated players in Illinois. He holds 13 scholarship offers to play collegiate football.

“It just feels crazy,” Pierce said. “A year ago if you would’ve told me I was getting all these offers, I would’ve said you’re lying. Still when I get an offer, it still feels like the first. It’s crazy that I’m in this position.”

Pierce is ranked as a three-star player by 247Sports and the 15-best in the state of Illinois. Rivals ranked Pierce as a three star and 13-best best in the state.

The junior started 2022 with offers from Illinois, Kentucky, Western Michigan, Kansas, Purdue, Bowling Green, Central Michigan and Miami (Ohio) and more college coaches have visited Brother Rice’s campus to offer the coveted defensive lineman.

Vanderbilt, Toledo, Syracuse, Iowa State and Minnesota all offered on the week of Jan. 16 and Pierce has been in contact with different coaches throughout the process.

He visited Purdue on Sunday and has plans to visit Wisconsin and Minnesota in March with potential visits to Iowa State and Northwestern too. The junior hasn’t made up his mind; though, he has visited Illinois three times already since being offered in June.

“It’s no secret, I feel like I’ve been to Illinois like three times, so I’ve been impressed with their facilities, but I’m still keeping my options open right now,” Pierce said. “I really like Illinois right now, so right now that’s my top one I would say.”

The defensive lineman said he’s found the recruiting process overwhelming at times but has made it a priority to make sure that he manages his time well so he can focus on all of his responsibilities.

While he doesn’t want to set a specific date for when he’d like to make a decision, he does have a general timeline.

“I think generally I would like to have in my mind where I’m going before my senior season,” Pierce said. “I’m not putting myself on a strict timeline because you never know what can happen.”

For now, Pierce is enjoying talking to different coaches and visiting campuses, trying to envision whether he can see himself playing and living on that campus. With every offer and visit also comes more motivation to become better.

“Every offer I get or every school that I talk to, it makes me want to go hard,” Pierce said. “It makes me think maybe I can succeed at the next level even more.”

Hard to believe

When Anthony Birsa started playing freshman football at Joliet Catholic, he had it all planned out for himself.

He set his goal of playing freshman football, then sophomore football, then varsity football and then hopefully one day, college football. But now that he holds nine scholarship offers in the middle of his junior year, Birsa can’t believe that it’s all actually happening.

“It was a great experience and I’m so honored to receive all of them,” Birsa said. “I’m super excited for all of this.”

Birsa held one offer heading into the new year from Eastern Kentucky but then other schools took notice in January. Toledo offered him on Jan. 17 during a visit and Western Michigan, Illinois State, Eastern Michigan, Akron, Kent State, Bowling Green and Ball State all followed suit.

It’s been harder for the offensive lineman to make visits because he’s currently playing basketball with Joliet Catholic, but he visited Western and Eastern Michigan this past weekend to add along to his earlier Toledo visit. He’s not sure where he’ll visit in March after February’s dead period is over, but he is excited to go out there and see campuses with basketball being over in March.

“I’m looking for the fit, where I feel comfortable playing at the highest level I can,” Birsa said.

All the offers are motivation for Birsa to get bigger and better in the weight room, and to be ready to impress when the fall comes around.

“It’s huge,” Birsa said of getting the offers in January. “It’s going to be a big thing lifting this offseason before senior year showing people next year why, not just the film but the whole game, every game, doing everything.”

‘Life-changing’ opportunities

John Nestor didn’t expect his recruiting process to move so fast.

The Marist cornerback had one offer from Kent State at the end of 2021 and now has seven scholarship offers, with each offer being a surreal moment.

“It’s definitely crazy and life-changing to say the least,” Nestor said. “As a little kid, I always wanted to play football at the high Division-I level, so for all the hard work to come full circle and the feeling of it paying off felt really good. It was a great feeling.”

Ball State was the first to offer on Jan. 17 and Western Michigan, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Toledo all offered the same week. Nestor visited Miami (Ohio) this weekend where the school offered him a scholarship.

It was a special moment because his father also played safety at Miami of Ohio and Nestor wore his father’s number during a photo shoot.

“It was pretty special to recreate that moment, keep on that tradition of the Nestor safety,” Nestor said.

Nestor plans to visit Wisconsin for its junior day in March and will also visit Central Michigan and Boston College too. He might also visit Iowa.

Culture is the most important factor when deciding on a school and Nestor wants to make sure it’s the right fit.

“I know they’re making a large investment in me but I’m also making a large investment in them,” Nestor said. “I’m going to spend the next four or five years with them, so I want to make sure the coaches I’m going to be spending my time with are good, quality people but at the same time they don’t mess around; they’re here to develop you and try to make you better, they’re not just putting our words. They’re telling me straight.”

The offers continue to be a motivating factor for Nestor. He wants to become better and with potential more offers on the way, he’s not going to stop working now.

“I have a balance right now of keeping my goals in front of me without getting away with all the offers,” Nestor said. “Some people when they get a few offers, they start lagging in the weight room and lagging in the gym, lagging in perfecting their craft. I try to do more than what’s required.”

Getting closer

Patrick Farrell always dreamed of playing college football, and with his four new offers in 2022, the Marist junior will have more options to pick where he’ll realize his dreams.

“Now that more are starting to roll in, it’s showing me that I’m starting to reach my dream of playing football at the next level,” Farrell said. “I just hope more start to come in so I can brighten my future and have a couple more options. I like my options right now, though.”

The defensive lineman had offers from Kent State and Central Michigan from December and Akron, Bowling Green and Western Michigan all offered in January. The junior is excited to not only have different options to continue his football career, but also potentially make an impact on a program.

“It’s great,” Farrell said. “It’s showing that I can really help every school really, I have the skillset to really improve programs. I mean that’s really what I want to do, I want to go somewhere, win and just keep having a successful career in football.”

Farrell visited Miami (Ohio) for its junior day a couple weekends ago and visited Western Michigan and Northern Illinois last weekend. He’s looking for somewhere it feels like home and is motivated to keep working hard for not just himself but his community.

“It’s really motivating me to be quite honest,” Nestor said. “I realize I have the potential to get the first four just to build off that and building and building and maybe I can get way bigger offers, like Power Five. I’m just showing everyone that I deserve what’s happening right now and proving to myself that I deserve it, trying to show these younger kids that even a kid from the South Side can make it.”

Sooner than expected

Everything has happened quickly for Justin Scott since he started playing football two years ago.

The 6-foot-5, 310-pound St. Ignatius sophomore has the natural features to be a dominant defensive lineman, but Scott has proven early that he has the work ethic to fit his frame, which is why he has nine scholarship offers.

“It means a lot especially because it’s only my second year playing football, so I’m still really fresh to the game,” Scott said. “It means a lot that I’m actually doing pretty good.”

Illinois, Rutgers, Iowa State and Missouri all offered before the end of 2021 and other programs have decided to join in the push for Scott. Iowa offered on Jan. 21 and Western Michigan, Tennessee, Purdue and Syracuse all followed suit the following week.

All of his offers have been special to Scott, but Iowa’s offer was when he realized that he was making an impression in the college recruiting world.

“They’re a great program, I wouldn’t expect them to look at me,” Scott said. “I didn’t know that I was that known this early.”

Scott has visited Illinois, Iowa State and Notre Dame so far and has decided what programs he will visit in March and in the spring.

While it can get repetitive getting an offer every single day in a week, Scott also realizes how surreal it all truly is.

“It’s a little bit of both,” Scott said. “This week they’ve been happening back-to-back-to-back but it’s also like I really used to play basketball and I would want to go to the NBA and it’s surprising to me how quickly everything changed just like that.”

Michal Dwojak

Michal Dwojak

Michal is an award-winning sports journalist based in Chicago. He most recently served as the sports editor of The Glenview Lantern and Northbrook Tower and is a graduate of the College of Media at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.