The 2020 National Football League Draft had been over for less than one hour when the post appeared on former Auburndale High School standout Artavis Pierce’s Twitter account.
It read: “Next Chapter” and it was accompanied by a praying hands emoji. The tweet also included a photo graphic of the former Oregon State University running back and confirmation of Pierce’s signing with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent.
Pierce’s football journey has taken him, in part, from Auburndale High (where he was a highly rated four-year starter and two-time team captain) to Tampa (where he competed for the South Team during the 2016 Blue-Grey All-American Bowl at Raymond James Stadium) to Corvallis, Ore. (where he played in 44 career games for the Oregon State Beavers and ranks 10th on the school’s all-time list with 2,127 rushing yards) to Pasadena, Calif. (where this past January he had a 3-yard touchdown run in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl).
Next up is the Windy City.
That Pierce was not among the 255 players selected during this year’s fully virtual draft – held April 23-25 via videoconferencing because of the novel coronavirus pandemic – is not a knock on the former Bloodhound's chances of tracking down a roster spot.
To the contrary, only 17 running backs were chosen in the 2020 draft (the fewest overall since 2010), as teams seemingly have moved away from using picks at that position. But Pierce’s ability to run and catch the ball makes him an intriguing prospect.
At Oregon State’s Pro Day in March, Pierce ran 4.47 in the 40-yard dash and had a vertical jump of 30 inches. The league consensus is that Chicago could be a solid fit for Pierce, whether that is successfully making the roster or as a practice squad candidate.
The Bears agreed to terms with 11 undrafted free agents as of April 28, which included Florida International University running back Napoleon Maxwell (St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut). Chicago’s current stable of running backs features David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen and one of Pierce’s former Oregon State teammates, Ryan Nall.
One of the more positive outlooks for Pierce came from BeaversEdge.com in an NFL Draft profile. Here is some of what the website wrote about the 5-foot-11, 209-pound running back who averaged an Oregon State school-record 5.8 yards per carry (366 total) for his career:
“Beyond all the physicals, whichever team Pierce lands with will also be getting a tremendous young man. Pierce was one of the most humble guys on the squad, yet one of the most hungry and competitive, and that’ll bode well for him as teams begin to narrow down their prospects.”
Pierce played in all 12 games (seven starts) as a senior at Oregon State, registering 146 carries for a team-high 873 yards and 169 receiving yards on 23 catches. He eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark three times – including a season-best 141 against Stanford as well as 119 yards versus UCLA and 114 against Arizona – while scoring six touchdowns on the ground and one through the air.
The first part of the NFL’s virtual offseason was set to conclude Friday (May 15), while teams can resume their programs on Monday (May 18) and continue them through late June. Last week the NFL also presented protocols for the gradual reopening of team facilities.