BRADENTON, Fla. -- Life couldn't be more familiar -- or more different -- for Buck Pierce right now.
The longtime former CFL quarterback -- and much beloved Bombers alumnus -- has been on the football field this week at Bombers mini-camp, just like he's been every spring at this time for as long as he can remember.
The difference this year -- and it's monumental -- is Pierce has swapped a helmet for a ball cap and the football for a clipboard as he takes his first few awkward steps into retirement as the Bombers new running back coach.
'I still love football. It's been such a huge part of my life... I love still being out here and around the guys. It keeps me competitive. And when you talk to guys who've retired about what they miss most, it's always the competition. They miss the daily grind of competing'
"It's been an adjustment for sure," Pierce said Monday. "It's a learning process for me. But for me, it's about teaching and about learning. And as a former quarterback, I think I've got that in me -- to help people along and to teach them.
"But I'm not going to lie, it is hard for me, just because it's so fresh. All these running backs are like, 'You just retired?' They have all these questions about my career and the league and all of that stuff."
When Pierce announced his retirement last winter after a nine-year CFL career, it seemed logical he would begin his coaching career in Winnipeg, where he has settled and is about to marry a local woman.
But what didn't seem quite so logical is a man who'd never played any position other than quarterback would be hired as the running backs coach, leading some to speculate that while Pierce is nominally in charge of Winnipeg's running backs, he will also have a lot of input on the quarterbacks in 2014.
Not so, says Pierce, who insists that task remains the exclusive domain of offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille and quarterbacks coach Gene Dahlquist.
"Those guys have worked with quarterbacks for a lot longer than I have," said Pierce. "I've played the position, but my responsibility on this team is to get the guys in the backfield right. But I do have some advantages because being an ex-quarterback allows me to expand on the offence to these guys. I don't want our running backs to have tunnel vision. I want to give them the big picture of the offence as the quarterback sees it."
After helping lead the Bombers to the Grey Cup game in 2011, Pierce's last two seasons in the CFL were marked by injuries, bench time and disappointment, culminating in a trade back to the B.C. Lions midway through last season.
All of which demands the question: Any lingering sense of unfinished business now that your career is over?
"No, I can't feel that way," said Pierce. "Obviously, physically I still feel like I can go out there and play. And mentally, that feeling just doesn't go away. But you know what? I'm happy. I'm happy with this role and blessed to be able to do this for a living still and come out here and coach and watch these guys grow and learn.
"I get tons of satisfaction from that... I still love football. It's been such a huge part of my life, but I have a lot of learning still to do on this side of the ball and I'm really looking forward to that. I'm wide-eyed and open-minded right now and just picking everyone's brain to make me a better coach in the long haul.
"I love still being out here and around the guys. It keeps me competitive. And when you talk to guys who've retired about what they miss most, it's always the competition. They miss the daily grind of competing."