"Only adversity tests strength." This quote embodies the character and values of Mt. SAC's 2011 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year, Antonio Pierce. As a star NFL linebacker, he was known to flatten opposing lineman who dared penetrate the scrimmage line, but his true strength is a product of his indomitable will.
Having overcome the adversities of growing up in Compton, young Antonio didn't have many college options after graduating as a star athlete at Paramount High School. Perhaps it was the "Antonio" name affinity or Mt. SAC's renowned reputation for athletics, but somehow Antonio made his way to Mt. San Antonio College and joined the football team in 1996. He quickly distinguished himself as an outstanding linebacker and soon became team captain, leading the Mounties to their first national championship. "Antonio has great football instincts and intelligence," recalls Coach Evans Roderick. "He's like a coach on the field, possessing the keen ability to size up situations quickly and knowing what to do."
Upon graduating in 1998, Antonio was recruited by the University of Arizona, where his athletic prowess flourished even more. In 2001, Antonio went undrafted, but proved himself with the Washington Redskins as a free agent. His physical prowess was noticed by the New York Giants with whom he signed a six-year contract in 2005. As the legendary No. 58, Antonio was able to reap the benefits of his tenacity while establishing himself as one of the premiere playmaking linebackers in the league. He recorded a career-high 160 tackles (109 solo) and had eight games with 10 or more tackles, which earned his trip to Hawaii as first alternate to the 2006 Pro Bowl. In 2008, Antonio's hard work and determination paid off as the Giants upset the undefeated Patriots to win Super Bowl XLII.
The loving husband and father of four also shines off the field. Inspired by his own experiences growing up in Compton, it has become his personal mission to improve the quality of life for the youth in the Long Beach/Compton area. For the past five years, Antonio has sponsored a free football camp for underprivileged youth. In 2006, he became the spokesperson for Giants Academy—a program designed to help inner-city children succeed despite obstacles in their life. Antonio also participates in the "Read Across America" program, wherein he reads to children whose parents are undergoing treatment for chemical dependency at the Odyssey House in Harlem.
In recognition of his many community contributions, Antonio was named United Way's "Man of the Year" in 2007 and was honored by the Catholic Diocese.
After a successful career that spanned nearly a decade, Antonio announced his retirement from the NFL last year. But never one to rest, he joined a different type of team, as an NFL analyst on ESPN. His lovely wife, Jocelyn, is also a sports commentator for NFL Network and Fox Sports West, and will add a fifth child to the couple's blended family in August.
Whether reporting from the sidelines or coaching/mentoring young athletes, Antonio is determined to give a higher sense of purpose and motivation to all. Thus, in the spirit of humanitarianism and professional excellence, Mt. SAC proudly bestows its "Alumnus of the Year Award" upon Antonio Pierce on the occasion of the college's 65th anniversary.