At his home in Hialeah, Florida, Noah Pierre and his mother used to repeat the same scripture in the mornings. It was Psalms 23:4, a message from David about perseverance.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” it reads.
During his career at Indiana, this has continued to be Pierre’s favorite line. The passage, along with his own resilience, helped him through three years where he rarely saw the field and endured multiple position changes. In a time where the transfer portal makes it increasingly accessible to leave a school, the thought was never in Pierre’s mind. When he felt down, he’d prayed.
The scripture is also relevant to last Saturday’s game against Michigan State, where Pierre, now a redshirt junior, finally got his opportunity after starting defensive backs Tiawan Mullen and Reese Taylor were out with injuries. Saturday brought yet another crossroads in the fourth quarter, one where Pierre’s discipline would be tested again.
Michigan State threw Pierre’s way with frequency, knowing that he was the most inexperienced member of Indiana’s secondary. Understandably, Pierre was somewhat frustrated.
But before Michigan State’s final drive, when Indiana was down by five with just over three minutes remaining, cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby pulled Pierre to the side.
“Listen, forget all the negative, you’re going to have an opportunity,” Shelby said. “Do you believe?”
“Yeah, coach,” Pierre said, but sounded slightly deflated.
“Do you believe it?” Shelby asked again.
“I believe it,” Pierre said more confidently.
On second down, Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne went at Pierre, tossing a fade toward the back of the endzone. Pierre, however, leaped in front of the receiver, twisting his body and securing the ball with two hands — his first career interception. He pounded his chest as he streaked down the sideline.
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It gave Indiana’s offense one last chance to win the game, which was ultimately squandered as it lost 20-15. But the respect for Pierre’s relentlessness, in the game and his career as a whole, has remained. With the status of Taylor and Mullen still unknown moving forward, IU will continue to count on Pierre.
“It just speaks to his commitment to who we are and his belief in our program and him wanting to be here, wanting to graduate from here, wanting to get a degree from here and being able to finish what he started,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said of Pierre. “I respect that so much.”
Among coaches at Indiana and prior, there’s somewhat of a consensus when describing Pierre.
Allen: “The first quality that stood out to me was his competitive toughness.”
Shelby: “Knack for toughness.”
Pierre’s head coach at Champagnat Catholic School, Dennis Marroquin: “He was always competing.”
Despite only being 5-foot-10, Pierre had his share of rib-rattling hits. One time, as a senior, Pierre flattened a wide receiver so badly that his body bent in half like a folding chair, his feet over the top of his head. The play was ranked as MaxPrep’s top hit of the 2017 season.
In another matchup against current Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rondale Moore, Pierre hit him so hard that “I believe (it)... knocked his helmet loose,” Marroquin said. His competitiveness wasn’t just on the field. Pierre used to get into heated games of tag and hide and go seek with his family.
“Musical chairs,” Pierre says, “Used to get kind of physical.”
But entering his senior year of high school, Marroquin said, Pierre didn’t even have any scholarship offers. That season, though, he was named first-team All-Dade County as a cornerback and helped Champagnat Catholic to a state title against the top competition of a talent-rich area. Pierre was also always one to say “yes sir” and “no sir.” He got into the weight room on time and stayed late.
He eventually chose Indiana, his only Power Five offer, over the likes of Appalachian State and hometown Florida Atlantic, among others. After redshirting his first year at IU in 2018, he moved to safety, where he made 10 appearances, mostly on special teams. It was the same as a sophomore in 2020, where he appeared in all eight games, with a majority of his action on special teams. But Allen said he was impressed with the consistent effort Pierre brought.
Pierre’s limited playing time was in part due to the talent in front of him: Mullen, Taylor and Jaylin Williams, all of whom are some of the best in the Big Ten. Shelby talked with Pierre about his own career at Oklahoma, one in which he was undersized, but made up for it with his intangibles. Pierre prayed to Psalms 23:4.
“Indiana chose me and I chose them too,” Pierre said. “Leaving never really crossed my mind. I always wanted to make a point here and prove that I can be that player here.”
Pierre started this season as the third-string safety. But then Devon Matthews went down against Iowa. Chris Keys tore his ACL the following week. Williams entered concussion protocol against Western Kentucky. Mullen was sidelined with an injury against Penn State and Michigan State. Taylor missed last Saturday’s game too.
A few weeks ago, the coaching staff needed to move Pierre back to cornerback. The conversation, due to Pierre’s unselfishness, was simple enough.
“Do you accept this challenge?” Shelby asked Pierre.
“Let’s go,” Shelby recalls him responding.
Pierre filled in against Western Kentucky and then against Penn State, where he tallied three total tackles. Then, when Indiana needed him most on Saturday, Pierre had his breakout game.
“He is something that you don’t get to see very often in this day and age,” Shelby said. “Everyone wants what they want now and they want immediate gratification.”
His patience paid off on Saturday. At some point after intercepting the Michigan State pass, Shelby pulled Pierre aside again, looked him in the eyes and told him how proud he was. All the while, Shelby knows that this could just be the beginning for Pierre.
“He’s got,” Shelby said, “so much more to write.”