Dameon Pierce was just 61 yards shy of rushing for 1,000 yards in his rookie campaign before an ankle injury sidelined him for the final four games of the 2022 season. Pierce is already on the road to recovery, feeling optimistic about a return as early as this week if the Houston Texans had another game left.
"It's a bummer how it ended but you know, it's a slight injury," Pierce said Monday. "Nothing that nobody can come back from. I could have come back earlier, but it was an administrative decision to put me on IR for the rest of the season, get me so I can be ahead of my offseason program leading into next year. And hopefully, we'll see how things unfold."
Drafted with a fourth-round pick (107th overall) out of Florida, the jovial Pierce quickly became a fan favorite for his explosive running style and ability to make multiple defenders miss tackles. Despite missing four games, Pierce still earned a nod as a Pro Bowl alternate after he finished with 1,104 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving).
"You knew he was a talented football player," RB Coach Danny Barrett said. "You knew he was a physical runner, able to finish runs. But just his ability to keep those legs moving and moving, pounce like that, adapting to the speed of the game, he probably surprised himself somewhat as well. Because of the type of work ethic he has and his attitude every day, it's infectious. He comes to work every day trying to get better, and that's really what he built on week in and week out. How can I get better? How can I improve? I'm happy for him that his peers recognized him as well to be voted as an alternate to the Pro Bowl. That says a lot for a first-year player and not being able to finish off the year."
Now that his first NFL season has come to and end, Pierce says he feels blessed to be even in the conversation for additional 2022 rookie accolades such as the All-Pro Rookie team.
"Man, I'm proud," Pierce said. "I'm damn proud of what I was doing. It's just like I wish I had them four games though. But, you know, I put it on paper. It's like it kind of gave me something to look forward to in the offseason, you know?"
When asked about his chances for winning Offensive Rookie of the Year had he stayed healthy, Pierced simply smiled.
"No comment," he whispered.
In his rookie season, Pierce carried the ball 220 times for 939 yards (4.3 avg.) and four touchdowns, catching 30 passes for 165 yards (5.5 avg.) and one touchdown through 13 starts. He is just one of three rookies in franchise history to reach 1,000 scrimmage yards.