By Emma Myers
Ashburn (Jan. 5, 2015) – One Saturday night, Briar Woods High School football head coach Charlie Pierce found himself seated in a booth at the All American Steak House in Ashburn surrounded by a mass of TVs playing college football games from around the country.
“On one TV, Stanford was playing, another TV had Wake Forest, another screen had Minnesota playing, and on the other TV Penn State was playing,” Pierce said.
Each of these games had one thing in common – all had players on the field or sideline who had been coached by Pierce in the last decade.
Pierce has had the great fortune of coaching a host of talented Briar Woods players who did, who are now or who soon will play for some elite college programs in the NCAA:
- Justin Baker (2012) James Madison
- Mike Barta (2013) William & Mary
- Mark Birmingham (2016*) Duke
- Alex Carter (2012) Stanford
- Jared Coker (2014) Richmond
- Cory Colder (2013) East Tennessee State
- Christian Flores (2011) Northwestern
- Melvin Holland, Jr. (2014) Minnesota
- Trace McSorley (2014) Penn State
- Nick Merletti (2014) Harvard
- Brandon Polk (2015*) Penn State
- Matt Rolin (2013) Florida
- Scott Rolin (2011) Virginia Tech
- Cam Serigne (2013) Wake Forest
- Matt Wolcott (2014) James Madison
“It’s pretty exciting,” Pierce said. “It’s almost like I’m a proud father in a way.”
Pierce’s love of the game started at an early age as he watched his father – who was also a coach and an educator – fall in love with the game of football. From there, he began the journey from coach’s son to player to coach.
“When I was little with my brothers, we would have football equipment,” Pierce said. “We’d go to my dad’s practice, and we’d be simulating things that the bigger kids were doing.”
Years later Pierce became a skilled high school football player and went on to become a scholarship athlete at Division II Shepherd University. Just over a decade after he decided to put away his shoulder pads for the final time because he realized he was not built for the next level, Pierce was inducted into the Shepherd University Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I figured coaching was the next best thing to keep in touch with the sport that I was raised on,” Pierce said.
Pierce began his head coaching career in Loudoun County at Park View High School and eventually moved to Briar Woods in 2005 when the school opened.
“I think it’s special because I get to start my own program, so it’s my own fingerprint,” Pierce said. “Starting a team from scratch and seeing how it has developed and grown over the years is something to be proud of and all the relationships I had with the coaches and the players are something that I relish and appreciate.”
Over the past four years, Briar Woods football has been in four state championship games and won three. The team has led Pierce to an overall coaching record of 140-36. While there is no doubt that Briar Woods has emerged as a football powerhouse, Pierce believes he does more than just coach players; he molds young men.
“He’s helped me grow a lot as a player and also as a young man,” Briar Woods lineman Chase Brown said. “He’s taught me responsibility as a person.”
In order to develop his athletes into the players they are today, Pierce has built his football program to mirror that of one of a small college. Whether it is during practice or through film study, Pierce ensures that he is preparing his athletes for the next level.
“No matter how talented our player is in our program, I demand hard work and practice,” Pierce said. “I think if you’re a talented player, you get access to a program like ours, you work hard, and, last but not least, you’re good in the classroom, all of those things are going to give you opportunities to go to the next level.”
Pierce teaches his players the kind of discipline, hard work and perseverance that is needed for the real world and that was instilled in him by his college coach Walter Barr. To him, football is the greatest teacher of life.
“It’s eleven individuals trying to work in concert to do something each and every play and sometimes you are successful sometimes you’re not, but you try to be successful. That’s what life is all about. If you own your own business or own your own company you try and get all your employees on the same page and you work together – football teaches that,” Pierce said.
Pierce’s program has seen talented athletes come and go, but his coaching philosophy from year to year stays the same. So if you check in with coach Pierce in five years, you will see that he will need more than a multitude of TVs at the All American Steakhouse to watch his sons play the game he loves.
Emma Myers is a senior at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn. Follow LoCoSports on Twitter (@LoCoSports) for up-to-date news and scores from around Loudoun County.