Signing Day: Brother Rice’s Trey Pierce signs with Michigan

Trey Pierce is heading to one of the nation’s premier college football programs after signing his letter of intent with Michigan on Wednesday.

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Brother Rice’s Roderick “Trey” Pierce III signs his commitment to play football for Michigan.

Brother Rice’s Roderick “Trey” Pierce III signs his commitment to play football for Michigan.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Roderick Pierce III had a plan and he stuck to it.

But then those plans changed, not through the Brother Rice senior’s own doing. And now Pierce is heading to one of the nation’s premier college football programs after signing his letter of intent with Michigan on Wednesday.

The 6-3, 295-pound defensive lineman picked up his first Division I offer from Kentucky right after the spring 2021 pandemic season. Pierce, known as Trey to his coaches and friends, wanted to have his college plans finalized before his senior year so he could focus on his last season of high school football.

Pierce, a three-star prospect ranked ninth in the state in 247Sports’ composite ratings, committed to Wisconsin ahead of his senior year. But the Badgers fired coach Paul Chryst five games into the season and Pierce decided to reopen his recruiting.

“Michigan came along and offered me, and I knew in my head, ‘All right, Michigan’s gonna be up there,” he said. “But I still wanted to take visits to other schools, still go through the recruiting process.”

Pierce visited Illinois and Michigan, and last week made the oral commitment to the Wolverines that he affirmed with Wednesday’s signing.

It was another major milestone on a football journey that began when Pierce was a 5-year-old suiting up for the Blitz youth program at Hayes Park on the Southwest Side. When he outgrew that league’s weight limit, he moved on to the Orland Park Pioneers.

“I always had to play up because of my size,” Pierce said. “When I was younger, I wasn’t really big. I was more so tall for my age.”

But he’s always played up front and as Pierce worked at his craft he became one of the best around. The 247Sports composite rankings have him No. 60 nationally among senior defensive linemen.

When did his game take the leap to elite status? Things clicked last summer, according to Pierce.

“Just learning to read blocks and study film and read body language and stuff like that,” he said. “So going into the season, I was able to play at a whole different level.”

The Crusaders got more from Pierce on the field, and more off it. Rice graduated a big, talented senior class after the 2021 season, led by Sun-Times Player of the Year Jack Lausch.

New coach Casey Quedenfeld, who joined the staff in 2021 as part of the transition from former coach Brian Badke, was direct with Pierce about what the team needed.

“This year he had to mean more to the program than years past,” Quedenfeld said.

Quedenfeld told this year’s seniors they’d be expected to fill the leadership gap caused by graduation.

“Trey being a gentle giant and a quiet young man — it can be difficult for those types of guys,” he said. “I’m from Philadelphia so I’m blunt. The first time I had a meeting with him, I said, ‘You don’t have a choice. You have to be a leader because everybody knows who the best player on the team is.’”

Pierce was up to the challenge.

“He was elected captain, and he led vocally at times and by example,” Quedenfeld said.”I was proud to see him break out of that shell.”

And now Quedenfeld and the Crusaders can be proud of having a player suit up for the two-time defending Big Ten champs.

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