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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Tyrell Pierce powers through knee injury to compete in indoor track season

Tyrell+Pierce+powers+through+knee+injury+to+compete+in+indoor+track+season

Knox sophomore, Tyrell Pierce, spiraled after suffering a devastating knee injury. Through faith he found the strength to attack his rehab and return for indoor track season.

Tyrell Pierce was kneeling, getting into position between the blocks before the first track meet of the 2022 season at Saint Ambrose University. The junior anxiously anticipated the sound of the takeoff shot. He had prepared for this moment. He endured a grueling rehab process. Once the pop sounded, everything felt normal. 

During an August 26th football practice, Pierce – a wide receiver – ran a post route when a teammate wrapped him up from behind, and Pierce’s foot got caught up in the turf, twisting his knee and tearing his ACL and meniscus. 

For the Alabama native, the process was hard to take from a mental standpoint. Being a dual-sport athlete has been a large part of Pierce’s life since high school. Without that part of his identity, a feeling of isolation sank in. 

“Depression came in,” Pierce said. “I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do.” 

“There were times I wanted to give up,” Pierce added. “There were times I was like, ‘Forget this; I don’t want to play sports anymore, I just want to go home.’ Being who I am, I just kept going at it.”

Pierce’s depression put him in a bad mental state. Sports were his love. Now his love was causing his greatest agony. Pierce goes by the moniker ‘Wafflehouse’ on the gridiron because he’s always open. Even that nickname caused an affliction. 

“I didn’t want nobody to call me ‘Wafflehouse’ no more,” Pierce said, gesturing with his hands for emphasis. “Wafflehouse is who I am on the football field, so when I got hurt, I didn’t want to hear that nickname anymore.”

The loneliness compounded with the Alabama native being the only track athlete on campus over winter break. But the dark times allowed Pierce to pick up yoga for relaxation and grow closer to his faith.

“I believe everything happens for a reason. I have to stay faithful and down the path that God got me on,” Pierce said. “I gotta keep believing in whatever He wants for me and keep doing what I have to do.”

Pierce got back in the gym. He executed leg exercises – squats, leg presses, lunges – to strengthen the knee as best as he could. He sacrificed his winter break to stay at Knox and rehab, opting for that approach over surgery. The sacrifice proved fruitful when the Head Athletic Trainer, Scott Sunderland, cleared Pierce for indoor track season, which kicked off on January 15th, roughly five months after Pierce’s injury. Once Pierce got clearance, he ramped up the training process. 

“I started off by doing jumping exercises and jogging,” Pierce said. “Once I got comfortable jogging, I started doing short-distance running at full speed. I worked my way up to my main event, which is the 400 meter.”

At the first event, which took place at Saint Ambrose University, Pierce advanced to the finals and entered the top-ten in Knox history for his (7:29) mark in the men’s 60 meter dash. Though he felt grateful to be competing, not competing in the 400 meter, his signature event, left a hole. 

“Coaches put me in the 60 meter and the 200 meter to see where I was at,” Pierce said. “It was very emotional, but once I got inside them blocks and heard the takeoff shot, it felt very overwhelming.”

Head Cross Country and Track and Field Coach Evander Wells has liked what he’s seen from Pierce as he works his way back from injury.

“It’s going well. Considering he’s coming off of the injury from football, I think we’re where we need to be,” Wells said. “He’s still the number one 400 meter runner in the conference; I know he has an eye on the school record and wants to make nationals.”

The opportunity to compete in the 400 meter – what Pierce considers his signature event – came in the second meet of the year at Illinois College. 

“My head was spinning,” Pierce said. “I was thinking about my knee the whole time.” Pierce always has the knee injury in the depths of his mind. Until he gets the surgery, he knows his knee will not be 100 percent. But in the meantime, he’s focused on becoming a record-breaker like his teammate, senior Derrick Jackson.

“I tell people all the time that I get to compete with an All-American with Derrick Jackson,” Pierce said. Just to compete with him at practice every day is making me better.” 

Wells loves the competitive nature between Jackson and Pierce. 

“It’s really good having two athletes who can push each other,” Wells said. “Before Tyrell got here, I had to take out my spikes from time to time to push Derrick. We have a group of people that can push each other. They’re going to bring the best out of each other in one another, which is going to have them perform better when it’s time to compete.”

Jackson and Pierce are roommates with a brotherly bond. Jackson even sees some of his freshman year self in Pierce.

“I’ve seen a lot of success,” Jackson said about Pierce’s performance this season. “He reminds me of myself from my freshman year. One thing I always tell him is that they’re always more to him than the personal records. He wants to hit the school records, the national records.”

Pierce is starting to feel like his old self again. He’s competing weekly. He’s in the gym constantly. One mystery remains. Does he feel close enough to his former identity that friends can call him by his moniker once again?

“Honestly, they can call me that right now,” Pierce says with a chuckle after a brief pause to ponder the question. “With indoor track, I’m on the right path.”

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