HAMILTON - The long and winding road back for Buck Pierce begins with a long-awaited road victory.
This was about a lot of things for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who earned an impressive 24-16 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night before a crowd of 23,852 at Ivor Wynne Stadium, but to see their star quarterback survive a bone-crunching hit and get right back up had to lift the spirits of a team that hadnít won on the road since Oct. 12 of 2009.
Pierce didnít have eye-popping statistics (12-of-26 for 151 yards with another 24 yards rushing to go with his one touchdown and one interception) but for a guy who hadnít played a real game since going down with a fractured elbow on his throwing arm on Labour Day of 2010, this was special.
ďIt feels amazing,Ē a jubilant Pierce said outside the visitors locker room. ďFor me personally ó and I donít want to make this about myself ó it was a long journey to this point and time right now.
ďTo have this feeling, it was all worth it and Iím excited for the weeks to come.Ē
The signature moment of the game saw a blocking breakdown that allowed Tiger-Cats linebacker Jamall Johnson get into the backfield and drill Pierce, who popped up to his feet and didnít miss a play.
ďIíve been taking hits for years and Iíve had some bad luck with some limbs and stuff like that, things I canít help,Ē said Pierce. ďI donít think my toughness has ever been in question. Iíve taken hits like that before. You bounce up and keep on going. That was a good hit and Iím sure it will be shown on CFL loops for years and years. Thanks Jamall Johnson for that.Ē
ďHopefully thatís a sign that his body is catching up with the rest of his toughness,Ē added Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown, who had five tackles and a sack. ďI donít know many people who would be able to respond and play the rest of the game after a hellacious shot like that.
ďIíve seen harder hits, but blind-side, that can end a career, let alone end a season. Heís never been a guy youíve had to worry about being mentally tough enough. Heís in the condition now where he can withstand a shot like that. It was incredible. I thought he was done.Ē
Bombers defensive end Odell Willis isnít worried about Pierceís injury history.
ďBuckís a soldier,Ē said Willis. ďIt gets to me a little bit because everybody is always on him, (saying) is he going to do this, is he going to do that? Iíll take him. Heís one of the best. Look at his winning percentage. The proof is in the pudding.Ē