Roderick Pierce III always dreamed of playing college football on the biggest stage in the Big Ten from an early age.
The Brother Rice defensive lineman will realize his dreams by playing on arguably one of the biggest stages in the nation after he committed to Michigan on Tuesday.
“Now I get to play for the current Big Ten champs,” Pierce said. “It’s been full circle for me. I’m loving every minute of it.”
Pierce’s journey to Ann Arbor started after Wisconsin fired head coach Paul Chryst in early October. Pierce reopened his recruitment soon after and schools like Michigan State, Auburn and Texas offered the senior after the firing, but Michigan was first to offer on Oct. 20.
He visited Michigan in late November and started to feel a connection with the coaching staff. The atmosphere and stage of the nationally known program made an impression on Pierce, but he was more impressed by the highly ranked academics.
Pierce decommitted from Wisconsin the day before the Badgers announced they hired Luke Fickell as their new coach and decided he wanted to announce between Michigan and Illinois on his 18th birthday on Wednesday, a week before the early signing day.
Pierce struggled with the decision after he visited Champaign this past weekend. He felt like it would be an easy choice to go to Illinois because of their academics and a lot of his friends went there as well, but eventually everything pointed to Michigan. He committed when Michigan head coach John Harbaugh visited his house on Tuesday.
“They compete at a high level,” Pierce said. “They’re the defending Big Ten champs, they’ve been to the [College Football Playoffs]. I want to go somewhere I can win. I like winning.”
Pierce’s senior season helped impress Michigan. He finished with 58 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss, which earned CCL/ESCC Blue Co-Lineman of the Year and all-conference honors.
Brother Rice first-year coach Casey Quedenfeld was impressed with Pierce’s growth on and off the field. Pierce quickly took to Quedenfeld’s new defense and helped lead his team to the Class 7A quarterfinals where the Crusaders lost to Mount Carmel.
Quedenfeld thinks Pierce’s game and his 6-foot-8 wingspan would’ve transitioned well anywhere he would’ve chosen to go, but he knows Pierce’s work ethic on the field and in the classroom will lead him to succeed at Michigan.
“There’s nothing better than when a young man puts his mind into something and gets both sides of the student-athlete done the right way,” Quedenfeld said. “I’m ecstatic for him.”
Pierce is excited to be done with the recruitment process but knows the work isn’t over. He said he’ll enjoy the rest of senior year, but he’s motivated to keep improving so he can make an impact at Michigan when he arrives in the summer.
“I’m more motivated than ever,” Pierce said. “I want to play, I’m going to Michigan to play. I want to contribute to the team and I’m competitive, so I’m ready to compete. I’m super motivated.”