It’s unfortunate that we don’t often hear the good stories about athletes in today’s day and age. We mostly hear about controversies and scandals.
There’s plenty of good stuff out there we all should know about, but nothing grabs people’s attention quite like a “gotcha” headline.
The story of former Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir doesn’t fit that mold.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Now, as Desir continues the path to his NFL dreams, a decision he made more than two years ago gives us insight into what he values and finds important.
We learned about Desir the man, not the football prospect.
Family over everything
Desir was born in Haiti. His family moved to the United States when he was four years old.
He attended Francis Howell Central High School in St. Charles, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, where he became an All-State performer.
After graduating, Desir chose to play football at Division II Washburn University in Topeka, Kan.
Desir redshirted the 2008 season, but he had a breakout year in 2009. As a redshirt freshman, he led the MIAA conference with seven interceptions, adding 33 tackles and two forced fumbles as well.
He was named a second-team AFCA All-American in 2009.
After the 2010 season, Desir and his then-fiancee were struggling to support their two young daughters.
“My wife and my two daughters were living with me,” Desir said. “Just trying to balance school, football and trying to take care of my two daughters. It just wasn’t all working.”
At that point, Desir made a decision that would affect his family, football career and ultimately, his family’s future. Desir made the choice to leave Washburn and move back home to St. Charles, where he would be closer to his and his wife’s family.
Desir contacted Lindenwood University and coach Patrick Ross about transferring to play football there, because they were located in St. Charles and he wanted to continue his career if possible.
Lindenwood is also a member of the MIAA conference.
His decision to leave Washburn wasn’t predicated on his ability to play football at Lindenwood. He was moving anyway because that’s what he deemed best for his family.
Consequently, Desir was not granted his release from Washburn and was forced to sit out the 2011 season. But he was able to continue his football career and better support his family living closer to home.
“It made things a lot easier for me,” Desir said. “Especially with football, when I needed to watch some extra film or stay longer in the weight room, I had that flexibility to call my mom, my wife or my mother-in-law and tell them I’m going to be a little late picking up my daughters.”
That support allowed Desir to improve his game, which resulted in back-to-back All-American seasons at Lindenwood in 2012 and 2013.
He was then put on the radar of NFL teams.
Road to the draft
Over the past few weeks, Desir has created a “buzz” for himself in regards to his NFL future.
It started with an invite to the Shrine Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he played well enough to earn a last-minute invite to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
The Senior Bowl is the most prestigious invitation a college football player can receive for pursuing their NFL dreams. Every NFL team is represented during the week of practices with scouts, coaches and front office personnel.
It’s a weeklong interview for their dream job, the opportunity to play football in the NFL.
And once again, Desir turned some heads while at the Senior Bowl practices.
From a physical perspective, Desir has fantastic size and length for an NFL cornerback. He measured in at 6’1” and 195 pounds.
Lindenwood CB Pierre Desir is showing he can play with the big guys at the Senior Bowl. For sure day 2 pick, pressing to be a day 1 pick.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) January 22, 2014
The NFL is trending toward bigger, more physical receivers. Therefore, bigger cornerbacks are becoming that much more valuable. Especially those who have experience in different defensive schemes.
Pierre Desir/Lindenwood, and Stan Jean-Baptiste were by far the most skilled at playing from a pedal in terms of cadence and pad level.— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) January 25, 2014
Desir played more press-man coverage at Washburn during his first two years, but he developed more off-man technique playing in Lindenwood’s scheme.
Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting believes there is a high ceiling for Desir.
Pierre Desir isn't a finished product, but he has the size, physicality in press coverage, and fluidity to develop into a very good NFL starter. While he needs ample footwork and body positioning coaching, he's a moldable athlete. Two years in the NFL, with his work ethic and character, could make him one of the best cornerbacks from the 2014 class.
One of the biggest reasons the Senior Bowl is such an important week for draft hopefuls isn’t their play on the field, although that’s important. It's their availability to all of the NFL teams. Every team can sit down and get to know these prospects as people.
It’s another area where Desir will excel.
Arriving at Lindenwood
Ross knew what he was getting when Desir called and told him he wanted to come play at Lindenwood.
Desir was a high-profile player, an All-American. But Ross said that even though his resume was impressive, that never showed when Desir walked onto campus. He just wasn’t that type of person.
“His mindset was, ‘I haven’t done anything at Lindenwood,’” Ross said of Desir. “‘I’m just going to go there and work and try and help this team win.’”
Ross said Desir quickly acclimated himself to his teammates at Lindenwood. He was an instant leader among his peers because of his outgoing and warmhearted personality.
It’s no surprise to Ross how well Desir has been doing at both the Shrine and Senior Bowls.
“His humbleness is really going to help him because he’s never claimed to be the best player and never had that kind of attitude,” Ross explained. “He doesn’t feel entitled; he just feels fortunate to have the opportunity.”
After his All-American season in 2012, teams decided not to challenge Desir nearly as much in 2013. Desir took it in stride and never appeared frustrated. According to Ross, he just wanted to help the team win.
“It was obvious teams didn’t want to throw his direction, but sometimes they were forced to and he still made plays,” Ross said. “They threw to him less and he still made plays.”
Though they just had two years together, Ross couldn’t be more excited for the attention Desir is getting for his abilities. He went as far as to say it’s helping put Lindenwood on the map. It’s helped them with recruiting as well.
“I’m so happy for him, and it couldn’t happen to a better kid. And I’m not just saying that. ... He’s the epitome of a program kid,” Ross said. “We were fortunate to have him.”
It’s no surprise that Desir’s world revolves around his two daughters.
That was apparent when he made the decision to leave Washburn, where he found tremendous success on the football field.
Simply because he knew it was best for his family’s future.
“My daughters are my motivation for everything,” Desir said. “They’re the reason I wake up for every workout, to get that extra rep when I’m lifting. They give me a sense of happiness. I know that I have to provide for them, and they motivate me every day.”
Desir has made a name for himself during this pre-draft process. As the “buzz” about him continues to grow, he has a family waiting at home that helps keep him balanced.
He mentions that his wife keeps him grounded and confident, but she will even critique him at times, asking, “Why didn’t you catch that interception?”
That wasn’t an issue in the Senior Bowl. Desir picked off a pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, capping off a fantastic week that undoubtedly helped Desir’s stock continue to grow.
His confidence and maturity are apparent within just a few moments of speaking with him. Those characteristics, Ross believes, will help him transition to the NFL.
“He’s very mature. He’s going to handle the ups and downs,” Ross said. “There’s a lot that’s going to go his way and there’s a lot that’s not going to go his way. His maturity is going to help him deal with that adversity and attack things on a daily basis.”
Desir’s story is the kind we need and should want to hear more about. It’s not ripe with controversy or scandal, and the premise is simple.
Family over everything.