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Colts WR Alec Pierce Undergoes Trial by Fire to Begin NFL Career

The rookie is getting a crash course in the NFL from some of the sharpest football minds over the last decade.

For rookies entering the NFL, the learning curve can be immense.

The offensive and defensive schemes are much more advanced than in college, requiring a much more advanced knowledge of the game of football. The game is faster, players are stronger, and the talent level ascends to the best in the world.

It can take some time for rookies to adjust to the NFL game. For some, multiple seasons may pass before they truly feel comfortable. However, some rookies are expected to have an impact right away on the teams that drafted them.

This is the life of Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Alec Pierce. Pierce was taken by the Colts in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Cincinnati. The 6’3”, 211-pound receiver was the top receiver for the Bearcats in 2021, racking up 52 catches for 884 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Colts drafted Pierce to be a compliment to Michael Pittman Jr. on the outside. Besides Pittman, the Colts do not have another wide receiver who has ever recorded more than 400 yards receiving in a single season. Now that veterans T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal are no longer with the team, the Colts desperately needed help at wideout.

But like any other rookie, Pierce has to undergo a major learning curve. Luckily for Pierce, he is getting a trial by fire, playing with some of the best minds the NFL has seen over the past decade on both sides of the ball.

Starting with who Pierce is going up against in practice, the rookie has lined up across from Stephon Gilmore for most of his reps early in training camp. Gilmore is a five-time Pro Bowler and the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, known for his coverage ability and football IQ. Going up against a cornerback of Gilmore’s caliber every day in practice certainly introduces Pierce to the level of competition he’ll face every Sunday.

“It’s great,” Pierce said after practice Wednesday. “Just running routes, a lot of times (Gilmore) knows what route I’m running before I even run the route just off of splits and how I’m stemming and stuff like that so that’s wild. I always try to pick his brain, see what he’s seeing. But yeah, it’s wild. It’s really crazy, you know how smart he is as a player.”

Gilmore has been coaching Pierce in-between reps on what he sees from the young wide receiver and what he can do better. While Gilmore has gotten the better of Pierce more often than not, Pierce has competed and made his fair share of plays on the Pro Bowl corner.

Gilmore hasn’t been the only player helping coach up the rookie. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been spending extra time with Pierce in-between reps, discussing how he likes certain routes ran and where he expects the rookie wide receiver to be when he releases the ball. Pierce is just trying to take it all in as he learns from one of the most cerebral quarterbacks in the NFL.

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“He treats us all great,” Pierce admitted. “He’s such a good leader. He’s just a guy you can go to and talk to and he’s very willing to teach you. (He) has so much knowledge so he’s a great guy to learn from. He’s very willing to help me as a rookie so I’m really appreciative of that.”

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Alec Pierce (14) runs across the field during training camp Wednesday, July 27, 2022, at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind. Indianapolis Colts Training Camp Nfl Wednesday July 27 2022 At Grand Park Sports Campus In Westfield Ind

Ryan has not only been working with Pierce, but all of the young wide receivers on the Colts as he gets used to his new teammates. The four-time Pro Bowler and 2016 NFL MVP is demanding of his wideouts but goes out of his way to make sure they are all on the same page. It is not uncommon to see Ryan conversing with the wide receivers after each play, creating a line of communication that is so crucial for the unit.

Pierce has been soaking up as much knowledge as possible from his veteran teammates and coaches. He has spent extra time with wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne to get the playbook down, learning multiple wide receiver positions within the offense. Pierce is a very intelligent individual – completing his engineering degree in only three years – giving him the ability to grasp everything the Colts are putting on his plate.

“(Pierce is) very mature and very smart and a great work ethic, so that’s a good combination,” head coach Frank Reich explained. “You guys know we really like smart receivers and smart skill guys because we are going to move everybody around and we want to be multiple, and we just can’t have any weak links. So, he is really smart. Our group as a whole is really smart… We want guys with a lot of skill, speed, strength and big size, but you’ve got to be smart.”

With the smarts and skills that Pierce possesses, the Colts are expecting the rookie to have a big role within the offense early. Not only will learning from his veteran teammates help Pierce this season, but it could also set the rookie on the right track for the rest of his career.

Have thoughts on what Alec Pierce could accomplish during his rookie season? Let us know in the comments below!

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