Pierre Walters, a 23-year-old Forest Parker, just signed a three-year contract to play football for the Kansas City Chiefs. Pierre attributes his athletic success to the old fashioned childhood he enjoyed in Forest Park.

Growing up at Lathrop and Madison, Pierre attended Grant-White and the middle school but never played organized sports. Instead, he and his throwback friends played baseball in the middle of Rockford Avenue, or shot hoops in the alley. When they weren’t playing unorganized sports, Pierre and crew rode their bikes through Thatcher Woods, or snacked at Sub T.

The only sport they didn’t play was football. Pierre didn’t like football and his string bean frame wasn’t built for violent collisions. However, at freshman orientation at St. Joseph High School, the football coach invited the 6-foot 1-inch 160-pounder to try out for the team.

Pierre had always wanted to be on an organized team. He quickly fell in love with football and savored the camaraderie with his teammates. Pierre played five different positions and discovered a different mentality between playing offense and defense: Offensive players want to run around people, while defensive players want to run through them. Pierre had the latter mindset and channeled his efforts to become a starting linebacker.

Easy-going off the field, Pierre continued to grow and was 6-foot 3-inches and 200 pounds as a sophomore. He spent so much time lifting weights and running that his appetite, and his muscles, kept growing.

The 6-foot 4-inch 220-pound senior received a scholarship to play football at Eastern Illinois University. Pierre’s body may have matured but he still had a lot of growing up to do. His indifference to studies resulted in Pierre being academically ineligible to play his freshman year. After this wake-up call, Pierre earned his way back on to the field with a 3.0 average.

Pierre started at defensive end his last three years. By this time, he weighed 275 pounds but was quick enough to defend receivers, or blitz the quarterback. EIU won its conference twice during his tenure and Pierre graduated with a degree in sociology and criminology.

Knowing he had the tools to play professional football, Pierre retained an agent and entered the 2009 NFL draft. Pierre and his agent sized up the offers and found Kansas City to be the best fit. The team was thin at linebacker, and playing in KC kept Pierre close to his parents and older brother.

When people ask Pierre where he’s from, he brags about Forest Park. It’s a perfect place for an old school childhood, where you may not wear a uniform but you play every day.