The NFL Combine is fast-paced and demanding, and several players remarked over the weekend how exhausting it can be.
But at least one player, Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir, was determined to both prove his worth and enjoy the ride.
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After all, it was only a few years ago when the 6-foot-1, 198-pound cornerback thought he might abandon his NFL dreams by transferring from one Division II school to another, so he and his fiance could take better care of their two daughters.
“The NFL was always a dream and a goal of mine,” Desir said. “But my priority was just to take care of my family first, and whatever came with it, I was just going to take.”
Desir and his wife, Morgan, are sweethearts from Francis Howell Central High School near St. Charles, Mo. Desir garnered interest from several Division I schools out of high school, including Missouri, Kansas State and Kansas, he said, but said he ended up Washburn because of his ACT score.
While there, Desir said he and and Morgan lived together and did their best to take care of Keeli, now 7, and Kamryn, 3. But being a full-time student, parent and athlete was draining.
“I’d watch my daughters, Morgan would come home, then I would go to school for four or five hours and come back and she would go to work again,” Desir said. “And then me having my four-month-old daughter (while) trying to do my homework … it just didn’t work.”
So in 2011, the family moved back to St. Charles, where they could live with Morgan’s mother. Desir didn’t want to give up on football, so he spoke to the coaches at nearby Lindenwood and was told he could play there.
There was just one problem; Washburn’s coaches didn’t want to let him out of his scholarship, Desir said.
“I talked to the coaches there and tried to ask for some help,” Desir said. “But they couldn’t help me, and they felt like it was a bad decision I was making.”
But Desir now calls it another kind of decision — a grown-up one to support his children.
It also came with consequences. Because he was not released from his scholarship, Desir said he had to pay his own tuition for a semester and miss an entire season, even though he was allowed to practice and participate in other team activities.
This made for a difficult series of months for Desir, who said he worked to help make ends meet in addition to attending school and practicing. One of his more memorable gigs was at a temp service, in which he cleaned sewers and worked in sewage.
“Knee-high stuff,” Desir said. “It was terrible. But really, it put everything in perspective.”
Still, the NFL was the furthest thing from his mind. Division II prospects have a difficult time making it to the NFL, let alone players who miss an entire season for something other than an injury.
But when Desir returned to the field in 2012, he racked up 60 tackles and nine interceptions and was chosen as a Division II All-American. NFL scouts started sniffing around the following summer.
“When it came, it came fast,” Desir said. “My wife was surprised because we felt that with me transferring, my chances of going to the NFL were very, very slim. So she was just as surprised as I was when I was telling her about the scouts that were coming to practice.”
Desir followed up with another strong season, in which he had 33 tackles and four interceptions but wasn’t tested as often, and has seen his stock rise thanks to the rise of Seattle’s physical secondary, which has made big cornerbacks all the rage for several teams.
That includes the Chiefs, who Desir said interviewed him at the Senior Bowl. He would love to stay in Missouri, but after his combine workout Tuesday, in which he unleashed the best broad jump of any cornerback, draft analyst Eric Galko of OptimumScouting.com and The Sporting News said Desir could have tested his way into the first 50 picks or so despite a 4.59 40-yard dash.
“That broad jump really shows explosiveness and ability to stay low through your hips and drive upfield as a tackler or in vertical coverage, and teams will see it and think he is an elite athlete,” Galko said. “I know a handful of NFL teams right now that have late first-round grades on him. The combine certainly helped him.”
Desir, of course, does not know which team he’ll be playing for on Sundays come the fall. But thanks to the journey he’s taken to this point, he knows exactly which
he will be playing for, and he also knows not to take any of it for granted.
“Man, they motivate me a lot,” Desir said of his family. “When I feel like giving up, I just think about them in the back of my mind and what I could do for them and what I could provide for them, because we could be set for life with this great opportunity. It just motivates me to give my all, every chance I get.”