Antonio Pierce: Leader No Matter What

Vinny YeagerCorrespondent IJuly 27, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 07:  Antonio Pierce #58 of the New York Giants in action against the Philadelphia Eagles during their game on December 7, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Antonio Pierce has always been overlooked and overshadowed ever since his college career ended at the University of Arizona.

Pierce was not selected in the 2001 NFL Draft, but signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins.

He played well with the Redskins but was still not a standout player, and it was understandable why he wasn't drafted.

In 2005, he signed with the New York Giants and became one of the leaders of a defense that was on its way to greatness.

He was soon named one of the captains of the defense and truly showed what it meant to be a New York Giant linebacker.

As the past has told us, Sam Huff, Lawrence Taylor, and Harry Carson are some of the greatest linebackers ever, and although Pierce is not in that elite category, his heart and determination may soon propel him to that level.

The high point in Pierce's relatively young career was when his Giants defeated the once undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. That defense rallied around Pierce and his leadership throughout that entire run.

Yet, he is still looked down upon and has not been able to change people's minds about him.

During last year's somewhat disappointing campaign, Pierce was under the microscope many times. His leadership was now being questioned more than ever because Strahan was gone.

Once November hit, it seemed as though the wheels were falling off the bus for Pierce, and everything was going in the wrong direction. Brian Westbrook was running up and down the field, and a Super Bowl repeat started to become uncertain.

Then tragedy struck, and former Giant wide receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg at a night club. Pierce was there with Burress and tried to help him out.

Although there are many sides to the story, Pierce started to get into legal trouble.

This off-field distraction led to on-field chaos, and New York never looked like its old self, resulting in a first round playoff loss to the Eagles.

This leads us to present time and the upcoming 2009 season for the Giants. Big things are going to be expected from the team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Osi Umenyiora is back from injury, key free agents were signed, and the defense is starting to come together as a solid unit.

Even though some may disagree, this defense will not be successful in 2009 if Pierce is not in the middle of everything to call out plays and be the leader that he was meant to be.

Pierce has the right to wear the "C" on his jersey because he is not only a true leader for the defense, but for the entire team.

Also check out this article that I have written on and