Pierson a natural fit for El Molino

El Molino's Mike Pierson has attracted visits from several college coaches. Photo by Scott Manchester / The Press Democrat

BOB PADECKY
The PRESS DEMOCRAT

FORESTVILLE

The gift, it’s immediately obvious. The flick of his wrist, so quick, it’s almost unseen. The fluidity of his throwing stroke, it’s butter smooth, seamless butter smooth. The way the football leaves his hands, it’s propelled by an invisible force, for there seems to be so little effort behind it. All of it, together, completes the package, makes the gift such eye candy, you want to see El Molino’s Mike Pierson throw the football again and again and again.

“Mike is a natural thrower,” said his coach, Mike Roan, who knows something about natural throwers. Roan was an NFL tight end for six years and caught passes from maybe the pre-eminent natural thrower, Steve McNair. And this natural thrower is a big reason why El Molino is hosting its first-ever NCS playoff game, on Saturday night against Kelseyville.

Of course being a natural thrower does not make someone a great quarterback, but it’s the best place to start. Nothing is so frustrating as seeing a wide-open wide receiver watch a thrown football fly like a duck, bouncing to or hurtling over the target. So the gift — of throwing it tight and right — is impossible to ignore.

That’s what brought Bryant Young to the El Molino campus in May. Bryant is the former 49er, a four-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman who is eligible in 2012 to be elected to Pro Football’s Hall of Fame. Young, a recruiter for San Jose State, was making a trip through the North Bay and wanted to talk to Pierson.

“I thought I had big hands,” Pierson said, “but when he shook my hand, he just about crushed it. For someone that famous, that well-known, to come to talk to me … it was really an honor.”

Young and Pierson talked about Pierson’s work with the Forestville Fire Department, his involvement in the community, his grades, his football. It was a look-see, the kind of look-see that comes from having that natural throwing motion, a motion that not only begs to be noticed but also begs for comparisons as well.

“Seems like whenever my name is mentioned, Nick’s name comes up, too,” Pierson said, referring to the Casa Grande quarterback, Nick Sherry. Pierson and Sherry shared a table this summer at a quarterback camp run by the Casa coaches. Sherry has the higher profile, as he has verbally committed to Colorado but may change his mind and go to either Arizona or Washington now that the Buffs have fired their head coach. Pierson has no offers but has been visited by coaches from San Diego State, Fresno State, Nevada-Reno, Sacramento State and San Jose State.

“When I talk to college coaches,” Roan said, “I tell them Mike’s definitely a work in progress. I sell that idea very hard, that he’s still pretty raw as a quarterback but he has a tremendous upside. If he gets in the right D1 system, he’ll flourish. He has all the D1 skills. He has size (6-foot-3), a good arm, a good athlete. He has all the physical tools. A lot of what he does comes naturally. He’s matured a lot in the last two years. He’s worked hard to get where he is.”

Mike Pierson has become relaxed about being Mike Pierson, that’s one of the ways he’s matured. He was struggling a bit mid-year but stopped over-analyzing, letting everyone’s expectations fall to the side. He got in his own way, in other words. His nadir was the Oct. 1 game against Casa, when Pierson wanted to be nothing short of exceptional.

“I wanted to prove I belong (with the Sherry comparisons),” said Pierson, who was 15-of-33 for 120 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. (Sherry was 13-of-22 for 187 yards, with one interception and one touchdown). Pierson eased his grip on that approach, knowing he was restricting himself rather than helping himself.

“I try to let my abilities take over,” he said, “and not try so hard. Usually when I get worked up, I don’t perform as well. When I slow down, I play better. I’ve worked hard on throwing to the point that it now feels so natural, I trust myself every time I pass.”

Pierson’s numbers this year are solid but not otherworldly — 111 of 209 for 1,554 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. Factor in a concussion against Analy that forced him to miss a game-and-half during the season, and excluding that Casa game, the senior has thrown 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions in just seven games. Pierson has proven he belongs, especially to the people in Forestville.

The team and the quarterback have created a buzz in this community, gathering attention just by going to the store or getting gas. When Pierson is on a call with his fire department captain, his boss introduces him as “Do you know this is the quarterback for El Molino!” The captain doesn’t have to say Mike Pierson. The captain doesn’t even have to say “Mike.”

He’s Mike Pierson, owner of the gift, the gift that only promises to attract more attention, as everyone who sees him asks the same question.

“How good will this guy get?”

No one knows, which, of course, right now is the best part of Mike Pierson being Mike Pierson.

For more North Bay sports, go to Bob Padecky’s blog at padecky.blog.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.