From field to track: Former K-State football player Ernie Pierce uses his skills to launch him to top of NASCAR world

Ernie Pierce, a former K-State wide receiver, is a jackman for the #20 team. His job is to jack up the car during pit stops so that the tires can be replaced in as little as five seconds. (Alex Todd | Collegian Media Group)

For many athletes, transitioning from one sport to the next isn’t an easy task, but former football player Ernie Pierce did just that as he used his athletic abilities to transition from football to being part of the pit crew with a top NASCAR team.

Pierce played for the Wildcats as a wide receiver during the 2007 and 2008 seasons under Ron Prince. In that time, he played 20 games, had 33 receptions for 483 yards and five touchdowns.

After wrapping up his football career, Pierce took a break from athletics, working as a door-to-door salesman and then at Bank of America for about a year and a half.

“Then I just happened to meet the right people and some friends while me and my family moved to North Carolina and opportunities came up because of my athletic background and I ended up in the sport in 2015,” Pierce said.

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Ernie Pierce (right), a former K-State wide receiver, rushes to jack up the Toyota Camry for the number 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team during a pit stop. (Alex Todd | Collegian Media Group)

For Pierce, making the transition back into sports wasn’t as hard as many would imagine. He has taken many of the same aspects into training as he did when he played football. He said he still remembers his two-a-days and that NASCAR is a lot less difficult.

When Pierce started working in the NASCAR circuit as a jackman, it was a six-man pit crew and now it is a five-man pit crew. He now also carries the job of a carrier for number 20 Erik Jones with Joe Gibbs Racing. The added duty doesn’t seem to bother Pierce as he “loves the locker room vibe” and traveling with a group of guys that he “goes to battle with every week.”

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Ernie Pierce, a former K-State wide receiver, is a Jackman for the #20 team. His job is to jack up the car during pit stops so that the tires can be replaced in as little as 5 seconds. (Alex Todd | Collegian Media Group)

The freedom the job provides also allowed him to start his own business on the side to help prepare for life after NASCAR. When it comes to his family Pierce has been able to remain very involved.

“I’m only gone one to maybe two days out of a week, so I am available for five versus seven so it’s not that bad,” Pierce said.

While Pierce has learned the ropes of NASCAR over the last few years many don’t understand is the science to it. There’s a lot more to it than what is being shown and the room for error is a lot smaller than what it is compared to any other sport.

For Pierce, “It’s about being on your A-game” and needing everybody to make a pit stop go perfectly.

Hi, I'm Molly Hackett and I graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in broadcast journalism in May 2020. When I worked for the Collegian, I had a variety of different jobs, including managing editor and sports editor. Additionally, I served a one year term on the Collegian Media Group Board of Directors. I also worked for KKSU-TV and appeared as an anchor on MHK All Day during my final semester at K-State. In my free time, I like to spend time with the people closest to me, travel, drink coffee and take naps.