The redshirt junior linebacker, Aaron Pierre, is truly coming into his own early on here in 2020. He received a substantial amount of playing time in the upset victory over Western Kentucky this past Saturday. He was named one of the captains for the team, but he hasn’t always been viewed as a leader on this team.
On several accounts he has been noted for not just growing as a player on the field, but off of it too. Defensive Coordinator, Scott Symons is one of his notable supporters.
“I think the biggest thing is Aaron’s focus and how he has grown up as a man off the field,” Symons says. “You’ve seen how it’s affected him on the field. He’s focused on growing in his faith controlling what he can control how he’s dealt with adversity off the field. I think he’s just really matured. He’s a completely different person than when he got here because of that he’s had some success on the field.”
The Defensive Coordinator went on to mention his on the field play.
“First game I thought he did some good things for us. He can really run. I thought he played hard, he ran to the ball, he had a great effort play on that 3rd down. We bust the coverage, he chases the guy down. That’s a big play to give us a chance to keep fighting. Really pleased with him. Like I told him in the meetings too, he knows he has a tremendous amount of upside and I think the sky’s the limit I think. As his confidence grows you guys will continue to see that hopefully on Saturday.”
Symons’ comment on his ability to chase guys down speaks truth to his stat line as all of his four tackles were solo tackles. Symons saying he will only get better gives a strong hope for Liberty’s defensive presence this football season.
Head Coach, Hugh Freeze is another coach that not only believes in his growth, but has been surprised by it.
“Reaching kids is a mystery. I think being a coach today is you better be half psychologist, at least. I’m not great at that part of it all the time, initially. I tend to figure it out in time, maybe,” Freeze says. “I thought his body language was awful, I didn’t think he cared. I was hopeful he might transfer, except for the fact that we need numbers at linebacker. Then, I don’t know, something really happened in leading up to spring ball, in the four days we had to where I saw a different kid.”
It is not often you see a head coach of a football team make a complete one-eighty on his thoughts of a player. However, Pierre has proven to be included in the few.
Pierre was able to simplify his ability to succeed by learning what he could control and what he couldn’t. When asked about his turnaround Pierre felt that his growth wasn’t limited to just his doing.
“Coming in every day with my teammates, they really lifted me up,” Pierre says. “I was able to correct my body language and was given the opportunity in the spring by Coach Symons to get out there and make some plays. Since then it’s been a whole new person for me from last time since now.”
The redshirt junior doesn’t want to take sole credit for his growth, his teammates played a huge part in it. He mentioned that there was a long list of teammates that helped him in his growth, and when asked to list a few he said,
“A few off the top of my head are Michael Bollinger, Chris Barrett, Frank Boyd, Kimani Donaldson, Khaleb Coleman, DJ Stubbs. They all really had a big impact on my life since I’ve been. I just really appreciate those guys for helping me out through that time.”
Pierre did mention that sitting out last year as a redshirt sophomore was “hard”, but his teammates and family kept reminding him that he will get past this. Pierre kept this mindset daily. He quickly began turning heads of the coaches and viewed as a leader on this team.
Pierre was selected as one of the captains for the season opener against Western Kentucky. Coach Freeze felt he was someone who fit the bill of the title.
“It was a great honor to send him out as one of the captains Saturday. He’s earned that right,” Coach Freeze says. “I think he’s a much more mature kid than I gave him credit for. Really happy that it worked out this way.”
Pierre felt that being named a captain for Liberty was a dream come true.
“Those are some of the things you dream about as a kid (being named a captain), but I just want to credit all my teammates. They were the ones who pushed me every day got me better and held me accountable through this whole time. When Coach Freeze told me the news, I was more thankful for him for giving me the opportunity and my teammates for being there with me the whole time.”
Pierre is grateful for the opportunity and is motivated to grow as a man and player. He has the mindset to be a successful college player here at Liberty.