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We don’t always associate spring with football but it can take our minds off that really dangerous sport, NBA playoffs. Forest Park native Pierre Walters is playing football for the Chicago Rush this spring.

Pierre earned an athletic scholarship to Eastern Illinois University, before graduating with a degree and signing with the Kansas City Chiefs. After three years at outside linebacker, Pierre is back playing for the home crowd. He signed with Chicago on April 16.

There is much to admire about Pierre, but what I like most is that he didn’t play organized sports until he hit high school. He had an old-fashioned childhood like I enjoyed, playing baseball in the street and shooting hoops in the alley. He didn’t need a uniform to compete, or a coach to make him practice. Refs weren’t necessary either. Pierre and his pals called their own fouls. Ironically, the only pick-up sport Pierre didn’t play was football.

That was before the former string-bean grew to 6-foot-5 and packed on 275 pounds. When he signed with KC, in May 2009, Pierre became a regular on special teams. He found himself racing down the field on punts and kickoffs.

His coaches discovered he was big enough to block and fast enough to make a downfield tackle. Regardless of whether he was protecting a punter, or bringing down a ball carrier, Pierre’s objective remained the same: defeat the person in front of you. All was well, until he became ill toward the end of the NFL pre-season and missed two games. He was released.

A week later, the Spokane Shock of the Arena Football League offered him a starting spot at linebacker. Pierre took the opportunity to explore the Pacific Northwest. Switching from the outdoor game to the indoor version was even more of an adjustment than the change of geography.

In pass-happy arena football, receivers get a running head start from behind the line.

This makes them difficult to cover and gives Pierre less than two-seconds to get to the quarterback. He said his speed and power are getting better as a result. The games are touchdown-fests. Pierre isn’t needed on punt coverage because there are no punts.

After hearing the Rush needed a linebacker, Pierre left Spokane for Chicago. He’s glad to be back where his parents can see him play. His mom had a blast watching their scintillating 62-61 win over Milwaukee.

Pierre is hoping to return to the NFL. While he’s here, though, he hopes to give talks to Forest Park students. He says that Forest Park was a good community for him to grow up in. He wants local kids to know they can realize their dreams.

He wants to tell them, “I was a little guy running around here, too.”

I’m not sure they’ll believe that one.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.