Bombers get bang for the Buck

Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce makes a throw against the Lions during the 99th Grey Cup game...

Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce makes a throw against the Lions during the 99th Grey Cup game at BC Place in Vancouver, B.C., Nov. 27, 2011. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:43 PM ET

WINNIPEG - He’s every bit as high-profile, if not as rich, as Evander Kane, and just as much a lightning rod for criticism in a town that loves its sports.

Yet he’s managed to avoid the rumours and Internet assaults that have hounded the Winnipeg Jets star this season.

It seems Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce can do no wrong, at least off the field, and Thursday he signed on for another three years of being the consummate public representative of his football team.

“You’re in the spotlight for everything that you do, whether it be positive or negative,” Pierce said. “It can get overwhelming, at times. Everybody has their thoughts and opinions, whether they know you or not, from what they read or what they hear about through other people.

“But it comes with the territory. You’ve chosen to be in this position. I mean, kids strive to be you. People look up to you. It’s the same for politicians, police officers and people in the military, as well.”

Not to mention those who play hockey for a living.

Maybe it’s pointless to compare Pierce with Kane.

One’s a 20-year-old who’s always been at or near the head of his athletic class and is earning $3 million a year, the other an undersized 30-year-old with an average arm who was never drafted and who came north as a walk-on at a free-agent camp.

Pierce’s new contract might pay him $300,000 if he stays healthy.

But there’s also a down-home, blue-collar authenticity to Pierce that you don’t always find in a starting quarterback. And that buys you a break or two in the community.

At least, until one too many passes finds opposition hands, and the losing streak hits, say, two.

“Winnipeg is a sports passionate place,” Pierce said. “You have to know you’re going to be seen in a different light, at times, and you to have to understand that. That comes with age.”

Truth is, Pierce has run into fans looking to take a piece of him, at least verbally.

“For sure. They’re passionate fans. They have the right. We’re a part of the community and we’re judged on our performance. You hear things sometimes and you’ve got to brush it off and move on.

“Usually, I don’t hear it. Either family members or friends hear it in the stands or somewhere. Most of the time at appearances or daily errands and stuff, everyone’s very respectful. They want you to perform well, but they also respect you as a person.”

Pierce’s performance last season left something to be desired. Top of the to-do list for 2012 would be to reverse that touchdown-to-interception ratio (14-18), at the very least.

You might wonder why somebody with miserable numbers like that deserved a hefty raise.

Pierce’s value, though, can’t always be found in his numbers.

I’ve always believed a quarterback’s leadership qualities are just as important.

It’s why I was never enthralled with Kevin Glenn, even after the superb numbers he put up as a Bomber a few years back.

Khari Jones was another story.

So is Pierce.

This guy is as comfortable hanging out with the hogs as he is rolling with receivers.

But if there’s a group of Bombers heading for a nightclub, you can often count him out.

Pierce acknowledges avoiding “certain situations.”

“I’ve always tried to put myself and the club in a positive light. There’s nothing wrong with going out and mingling with your teammates and the community. That’s a great thing. There’s also a responsibility to conduct yourself in the right manner.”

No. 4 never seems to have any problem with that.

Improving on a 10-win season and a loss in the Grey Cup should be a piece of cake.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

BUCK PIERCE

— Born: Nov. 16, 1981

— Age: 30

— Position: quarterback

— CFL experience: 7 seasons

— Games played: 76

— Record: 31-22

— 1,033 Comp, 1,592 Att., 64.9%, 13,162 yds, 68 TD, 53 Int.


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