So far in the UD Files, we've covered a DT prospect and a relatively unknown QB, both of which are fringe Day 2 players. Today, we go back to the defensive side of the ball and highlight a true underdog who has the potential to go even higher.
Pierre Desir's story begins in Haiti, where he was born. After he moved to Missouri with his family as a child, he played soccer for most of his childhood before switching to football as he entered high school. He worked his way to the varsity squad his junior year and produced stunning results as a running back, averaging over 10 yds/carry and rushing for 24 TDs, and tacking on 215 yds on only eight receptions. Desir also made a significant impact on special teams as a kickoff and punt returner -- respectively, six returns for 143 yds and 14 returns for 197 yds. And on top of that, he also tallied 56 tackles and 4 INTs on defense. His role on offense was cut back his senior year (though six of his seven carries went for TDs), and for good reason -- he earned All-State honors as a defensive back and was named special teams player of the year.
Desir was recruited by the likes of Missouri and Michigan State coming out of high school, but he failed to qualify academically for a I-A program. He accepted an offer from Washburn University in Kansas, redshirting his first year. When he finally saw action on the field in 2009 he didn't disappoint, leading the conference in interceptions (7) and pass deflections (13). After another strong season his sophomore year when he won All-American honors, he transferred to Lindenwood so he could be closer to home, allowing his parents to assist in providing support for his fiancee and two children. That move was not without its initial struggles, as Washburn initially denied his release. Desir left the program and had to sit a year per regulations -- because of his education responsibilities, he was unable to participate in spring drills at Lindenwood.
When he returned to the field in 2012, he led the conference once again with 9 interceptions (including 2 INTs in three separate games) and tying the conference lead with 18 pass deflections. By his senior year, scouts were regularly attending Lindenwood practices, and opposing quarterbacks had stopped throwing his direction on a regular basis. Still, Desir managed 4 INTs and 12 pass deflections, and he became the inaugural recipient of the Cliff Harris Award, given to the nation's best small college defensive player.
"The ceiling for him is huge," said Kent Maugeri, his DB coach at Lindenwood. "His technique, his footwork has improved every year, and he has things you just can't coach. Confidence is not going to be an issue. We've been blessed to have him here."
The way Desir has handled the trials he faced along his journey are impressive. He receives glowing reviews from his coaches for his work ethic, and his off-field life displays an immense amount of maturity. But as a D-II player, how will he stack up against NFL-caliber talent??
He seems to be answering those questions this week.
During East-West Shrine Game practices, Desir is holding his own against FBS-level wide receivers -- measuring in at 6'2", 206lbs, the coaching staff has praised his on-field awareness, and evidently he has not looked out of place jumping routes and mirroring receivers. Be sure to check him out this weekend -- and you'll also be able to see him at the Combine next month, where he will presumably impress in the drills and show off his projected 4.4 speed.
So where does he fit in??
Desir is expected to climb draft boards throughout the process. Some are predicting a top-75 selection, and Fox Sports even mocked him as the final pick in the 1st rd just last month. He has the size and natural ability to be an eventual starter in the NFL. Our secondary is looking somewhat thin with many welcoming the free agent status of Chris Cook, and Josh Robinson continuing to develop. Maybe we'll break the bank on Alterraun Verner in FA (if the Titans don't tag him), or Zimmer's presence will spark a young group of CBs to perform better than they did in 2013.
It's still early in the process -- but if we look to the draft to find another CB to pair opposite Xavier Rhodes, Pierre Desir is proving he is well worth a Day 2 pick. Keep an eye on him.