Heisman campaign revs up for Temple's Bernard Pierce

Temple's Bernard Pierce takes a handoff during practice on Thursday. He rushed for 1,361 yards and 16 TDs last season.
Temple's Bernard Pierce takes a handoff during practice on Thursday. He rushed for 1,361 yards and 16 TDs last season.
Posted: July 16, 2010

Temple's Bernard Pierce may be giving the word gridlock a new meaning. If motorists are stuck behind a SEPTA bus, there's a good chance they'll see a sign showing Pierce running to daylight while they sit idling.

Then there are the three opportunities to see the Owls running back on I-95 as drivers head south near the stadiums. While construction slows them down, Pierce can be seen on billboards picking up blockers and a head of steam.

The Schuylkill Expressway and Pennsylvania Turnpike, too, will have a larger-than-life Pierce catching motorists' eyes.

There are five billboards scattered throughout the area with "Hunt for the Heisman" headlines, promoting the sophomore from Ardmore as he competes for the honor with the likes of Alabama's Mark Ingram, last year's winner.

Pierce, a 2010 preseason all-American and first-team all-Mid-American Conference honoree, now has his own website - www.Pierce4Heisman.com - on which fans will be able to follow his progress this season.

"It's a new experience," said says the mild-mannered, 6-foot, 218-pound Pierce, who gained 1,578 yards and scored 26 touchdowns as a senior at Glen Mills School. "Some say it's a lot of pressure, a lot of weight on my shoulders, but I really don't think so. I just have to keep doing everything I've been doing."

Last year he rushed for 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns in a season that included a half-dozen games with 100-plus yards. In doing so, Pierce rewrote all of the freshmen records of Temple's last Heisman candidate, Paul Palmer, who finished second in the national voting to Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde in 1986.

Palmer, a Temple running back for four years, ended his college career with 4,895 yards and 39 touchdowns on 935 carries.

"If it happens, it happens," Pierce said about breaking Palmer's records, then he started to chuckle. "He's funny. He said I broke some of his records and he called me 'the enemy.' "

Pierce added that Palmer, who lives in nearby Haddon Heights never talked with him about the Heisman hype of 1986.

Back then, the campaign took the form of a Paul Palmer comic book that was mailed to Heisman voters. Today, communication is much different.

Pierce said that defensive members of the team already are referring to him as "Superstar" and as "Hollywood" in text messages.

"Nobody told me about the billboards. [Temple coach Al Golden] told me that I'm going to be a Heisman candidate and he'll be advertising me; that's all he said," Pierce said.

Since June, Pierce has gained two pounds, increased his speed in the 40-yard dash to 4.5 seconds and rehabilitated his left shoulder, which caused him to miss game time last season against Army, Kent State and UCLA.

"It was a sprain in the Army game [Oct. 17], then it became a separation in the Kent State game [Nov. 21]," Pierce said. "I played with it in the UCLA game [Dec. 29]."

UCLA defeated Temple, 30-21, at RFK Stadium in the EagleBank Bowl, the Owls' first bowl appearance in 30 years. With 16 starters returning from last year's team that finished 9-4 overall and 7-1 in the MAC, Pierce and the rest of the Owls are looking forward to more hype than ever.


Heisman Hype at Temple

The five billboards promoting Temple sophomore running back Bernard Pierce's Heisman Trophy campaign cost $4,000 to $7,000 a month and will be up in July and August. There are three on I-95 (all southbound), one on the Schuylkill Expressway and one on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (eastbound, near Willow Grove).

Here are some of the other Heisman expenditures:

SEPTA bus campaign - $5,000

Magnet giveaway - $3,000

Newly created website - $5,000 (www.Pierce4Heisman.com.)

Of course, Pierce has a Facebook page, no cost.

Pierce's 2009 stats - 236 carries, 1,361 yards, 16 TDs.

Player: School, year, position. The skinny

Mark Ingram: Alabama, Jr. RB. Only Archie Griffin repeated.

Matt Barkley: USC, So., QB. Big arm, big hype.

Terrelle Pryor: Ohio State, Jr., QB. Bigger hype, likes to run.

Ryan Mallett: Arkansas, Jr., QB. Michigan transfer, big arm.

Jake Locker: Washington, Sr., QB. Should have turned pro.

Casey Keenum: Houston, Sr. QB. Puts up huge numbers.

Evan Royster: Penn State, Sr. RB. Will be a marked man.

Dion Lewis: Pitt, So., RB. Ran for 1,799 yards and 17 TDs.

All Paul Palmer got in 1986 was a comic book. He finished second to Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde in the Heisman voting. Pierce rewrote all of Palmer's freshman records. Palmer, Temple's career rushing leader, finished with 4,895 yards for 39 touchdowns on 935 carries. Here's how the Heisman voting went in 1986.

1. Vinny Testaverde    Miami, Fla.   Sr.    QB    678    2,213

2. Paul Palmer          Temple       Sr.       TB       28       672

3. Jim Harbaugh       Michigan    Sr.    QB    25       458

4. Brian Bosworth      Oklahoma    Jr.       LB    9       395

5. Gordie Lockbaum    Holy Cross    Jr.      RB      32       242


Contact staff writer Bill Iezzi at 856-779-3826 or biezzi@phillynews.com.

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