Baltimore Ravens rookie RB Bernard Pierce was pretty sure he would declare for the NFL Draft after rushing for 1,481 yards and 27 touchdowns last year as a junior at Temple.
His statistics were astounding and his stock was rising. Then he found out his fiancée, Stacey Holloway, was expecting his first child. From there, it was a no-brainer. He was turning pro and not looking back.
"It was taking another step," said Pierce, who Baltimore selected in the third round this past April. "It was providing that security, knowing that she's fine, knowing she doesn't have to do anything. I'll help her out until she gets back on her feet and I'll be able to support my son."
Shortly after being drafted, Pierce signed a four-year, $2.65 million contract with a $555,500 signing bonus. He's now the provider he promised he'd be, especially with his son, Bernard Jr., being born on Aug. 5.
Bernard Jr., who's still in Philadelphia with his mother, will make his first trip to Baltimore next week to see his father. When Pierce began talking about the birth of his son, a smile grew across his face.
"I'd say it feels like your birthday," he said. "It comes one time a year. I know this is my day. But it's really not your birthday. I was overwhelmed, excited. I really can't totally explain the feeling because it's something I've never felt before."
It's not the first time Pierce has felt like he's had to take the next step in the maturation process of being human. He mentioned he got into a little trouble as an adolescent teenager growing up around Philadelphia.
When he was a freshman at Temple, Pierce said he was looking to have fun. He was like most young, college males -- he was into partying and girls. But at the end of his freshman season, he sustained a shoulder injury that was his first wake-up call.
"I started to realize I had (at maximum) three years left," Pierce said. "I have to shape up and make something of this. Then in my sophomore season I didn't have the season I wanted."
Pierce finished 2010 with 728 yards and 10 touchdowns, a significant decline from his first year where he ran for 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns. After his sophomore slump, Pierce dedicated himself to the weight room. He worked out harder than he ever had before, preparing himself for what became a big junior season.
"I made sure I was in tip-top shape, made sure I was as strong as I'd ever been," he said. "I knew I had to endure a whole season, and last year was that season for me."
Since training camp opened, Pierce has been competing for the primary backup running back spot behind Ray Rice. A hamstring injury slowed him down momentarily, and he missed last Thursday's first preseason game against Atlanta. He returned to practice a couple days later to resume his battle.
"I think the last few days have been nice to see him get some work," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "If he can stay healthy the rest of this week, maybe he will get some work on Friday night (against Detroit). We know he's a talent. We know he can play. We know he's tough. We like what we see."
If Pierce plays Friday, he'll be looking to reassert himself as the frontrunner for the No. 2 running back position. It would put the coaches at ease, knowing they have a dependable backup to spell Rice.
"I have a lot of ability," Pierce said. "I'm just trying to make sure I stay healthy and stay at 100 percent."
Follow Ravens reporter Jason Butt on Twitter: @CBSSportsNFLBAL.