Artavis Pierce

Artavis Pierce, an Auburndale High alum who starred at Oregon State during college, had 17 touchdowns and 3,307 all-purpose yards during his career with the Beavers.

Auburndale High School graduate Artavis Pierce was among 18 players waived last Saturday by the Chicago Bears, as National Football League teams reached the mandatory 53-player limit in preparation for the start of the 2020 regular season.

Is there a silver lining for the former Oregon State University running back?

Yes. Pierce, who signed with the Bears in April as an undrafted free agent, cleared waivers Sunday and was signed to Chicago’s 16-player practice squad.

Fifteen of the 16 were waived or released by Chicago as part of final cuts Saturday, while Pierce is the only running back on the practice squad.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL clubs had only training camp to view its players in-person as Pierce competed for a roster spot in the Windy City at a crowded backfield position.

Chicago, which kicks off its regular-season schedule this Sunday (Sept. 13) against the Detroit Lions, kept four running backs on the 53-man roster with injured starter David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Ryan Nall (Pierce’s former teammate at Oregon State) and converted wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

There was also speculation about the Bears as a fit for former Jacksonville Jaguar Leonard Fournette or Adrian Peterson, who were available the last week of the preseason.

Undrafted rookies typically benefit from Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp – both of which were canceled this year – but the consensus was Pierce impressed many during training camp after he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list in late July. The designation was used for players with positive tests or those who had been in close contact with an infected person and Pierce, in fact, was activated by the Bears just a few days later.

Pierce scored 17 total touchdowns in 44 career games at Oregon State and he ranks 10th on the school’s career rushing list. He played in all 12 games during his 2019 senior season and had 146 carries for a team-high 873 yards to go along with 169 receiving yards on 23 catches.

Bloodhounds ready for kickoff

Pierce’s high school alma mater opens its 2020 season at home Friday (Sept. 11) against Pasco.

Second-year head coach Kyle Sasser and the Bloodhounds recently finalized an eight-game schedule that features an even split between home and away contests.

Auburndale is set to follow the Pasco opener with visits to Lake Gibson on Sept. 18 – marking a rematch of last season’s Class 6A regional quarterfinal where the second-seeded Braves defeated seventh-seeded Auburndale 31-21 – Bartow on Sept. 25 and Lake Wales on Oct. 2. The Bloodhounds then kick off a three-game homestand against Winter Haven (Oct. 9), Madison County (Oct. 16) and Gateway (Oct. 30) before traveling to Braden River (Nov. 6).

Lots of difference-makers on the Auburndale varsity roster with the likes of Indiana commit Aubrey Burks, South Florida commit Jaelen Stokes, Temple commit Malachi Lowery, Air Force commit Tadarius Thomas and rising junior Elijah Davis. And junior quarterback Zach Tanner has transferred to Auburndale after he threw for over 400 yards three times last season at Discovery High.