After a nine-year career playing in the NFL, Antonio Pierce is thrilled to be back in the league, this time working from the sideline.
Pierce has worn many hats since his retirement – from high school coach to ESPN analyst to spending the last four years in multiple roles at Arizona State, including linebackers coach and defensive coordinator/associate head coach.
But now, he steps into the role of Raiders linebackers coach.
"Right away, you get that respect from the group," Pierce said of being a coach and former player. "But more importantly, it's your work ethic. Giving them information, give them tidbits that maybe they haven't heard before or physically doing it.
"I am in pretty good shape still, I can physically do it, so that's kind of a blessing for me to go out there and just walk them and talk them through it. But I think first and foremost, they understand and relate to me as a former player, but respect at the same time as a coach."
The transition to coaching has been fairly easy for the 43-year-old.
He's been preparing for the game with a coach's mentality since he was signed by Washington as an undrafted free agent in 2001, but feels like he really became a "pro coach" from working under Herm Edwards and Marvin Lewis at ASU – their collective veteran experience teaching Pierce how to prepare himself with even the smallest details and how to relate to the newest crop of linebackers.
"When I played, I saw myself as a coach on the field. I think I was known for being a student of the game," he said. "Going up against Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, being teammates with Eli Manning, there were a lot of chess matches that we played with one another. Tony Romo as well. I really prepared myself when I played as a coach. ... Studying, preparing myself making sure as a defense, we saw things the same way."
Pierce sees that same student of the game and leader mentality across the position room that includes Jayon Brown, Kenny Young and Divine Deablo , but especially in veteran Denzel Perryman – a player Pierce has watched from afar over the past seven seasons.
Perryman had a Pro Bowl season in his first year as a Raider, starting all 15 games he appeared in and leading the team in tackles with 154, as well as bringing a wealth of personality to the squad.
"What he brings, not even just with swag, but with attitude, professionalism and I'll say more importantly, leadership," Pierce said. "When he talks, the room gets a little bit quieter. And you want that from somebody on your defense and you really like that from the linebacker position, being biased a little bit. You want the meat and the heart of your team in that linebacker room."
While being a coach in the NFL is a huge milestone reached, it means even more for Pierce as it comes with wearing the colors of the team he watched play throughout his childhood.
"For me, it's a blessing. I'm from LA so when I grew up, the Raiders were playing in Los Angeles at the time," he said with a smile. "Proud Raider fan here."
View the best photos from the Silver and Black's second day of minicamp.