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Bucs’ Pierre Desir knows hardship and it has nothing to do with his nomadic career

The Bucs are the seventh NFL team (he was with the Seahawks twice) for the 31-year-old cornerback, a Haitian immigrant with humble beginnings.
Bucs cornerback Pierre Desir doesn't let the fact that he has yet to stick with a team long term get him down.
Bucs cornerback Pierre Desir doesn't let the fact that he has yet to stick with a team long term get him down. [ STEW MILNE | Associated Press ]
Published Oct. 8
Updated Oct. 8

TAMPA — Pierre Desir had spent only a couple weeks with the Bucs, when he was pressed into playing nearly 45 percent of the defensive snaps against the Patriots last Sunday.

Desir entered the game when starter Carlton Davis sustained a quad injury that would land him on injured reserve. In many ways, it’s the stand-ins on the Bucs roster who have stood out this season.

Jordan Whitehead is the only starting member of the secondary who remains after injuries to Sean Murphy-Bunting, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Davis. Against the Patriots, even backup Jamel Dean was ruled out due to a knee injury.

But Desir, 31, knows the difference between adversity and opportunity.

“I’ve been through a lot more and through a lot worse things in my life,” said Desir, who has spent time with seven NFL teams, including the Seahawks twice. “Football is easy.”

It’s easier than moving from Haiti at age 4 to a part of St. Louis that offered some of the same poverty and violence his family fled in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Desir’s mom and dad, Marie and Wilfrid, worked two and three jobs so they could move to the suburbs of St. Charles in Missouri by the time Desir was 11.

Football also is easier than learning you are going to become a father at age 16.

“I was a kid raising a kid,” Desir said. “I always owe it to my parents and my friends who stuck by me. They never let me forget what I wanted to do and always helped me continue to chase my dream and I owe a lot to the people who helped me stay positive and never let me not focus on that part of my life.”

Having grown up playing soccer, Desir was introduced to football before high school and loved it, much to the concern of his family. Before long, Power Five schools were interested, and his B average in high school was promising. But Desir did not score high enough on the ACT exam to qualify for the blue blood schools recruiting him and landed at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., a difficult four-and-a-half-hour drive from home.

By his third season, future wife Morgan, oldest daughter Keeli and newborn daughter Kamryn came to live with Desir in a small campus apartment.

Desir thought he had found a better opportunity for his playing career and family by transferring to Lindenwood University, an NAIA school in St. Charles. But the Washburn football coach wouldn’t give him his release and he was forced to sit out a season, working odd jobs and trying to maintain a family until he was eligible to play again.

Considered one of the best small school players in the nation, Desir was selected by the Browns in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. He was waived the next season and signed with the Chargers. Cut in 2016, he went to the Seahawks. Waived in September 2018, he was claimed by the Colts.

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Finally, there was some stability between family and football. He played in 37 games with Indianapolis, starting 29, with five interceptions, 26 passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

Surprisingly, the Colts released Desir just one year into a three-year, $22.5 million contract he signed in 2018 that including $12 million in guaranteed money.

The travels and travails have continued. He played nine games for the Jets and three for the Ravens last season.

“He’s a pro,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s a really smart guy, just like Richard (Sherman). He’s got length. He’s played man, he’s played zone. I called (former Colts head coach) Chuck Pagano about him, who I trust. He loves him. That’s all I needed to hear.”

So when you ask Desir about his vagabond football career, he just smiles.

“Especially with what I’ve been through in my life, growing up in poverty, growing up having to sacrifice and scratch,” Desir said. “Being a teen father … so I’ve been through a lot. When it comes to football and handling adversity, I draw back on those experiences and know this is just football. I’ve been through a lot worse.

“It’s definitely a blessing to be able to continue to be playing and I’m thankful every day that I’ve had an opportunity to live my dream.”

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