Super Bowl champion, Lawrence Pillers, anticipates graduation from Alcorn
In 1976, Lawrence Pillers received the chance of a lifetime when the New York Jets selected him in the 11th round of the NFL Draft. Despite not finishing his degree program, Pillers jumped at the chance to turn his NFL dreams into reality.
"When I got drafted in 1976, I didn't look back," said Pillers, a Hazlehurst, Mississippi native.
Over forty years and two Super Bowl championships later, Pillers returned to Alcorn State University to continue his studies, and on Saturday, May 5, he will receive a bachelor's degree in recreation during Alcorn's 2018 Spring Commencement Exercise. He thanks his family for the inspiration he needed to complete his education.
"I credit my wife and children for being a strong support system and encouraging me to enroll in school."
Pillers spent four years with the Jets before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 1980. He spent the next four years there and was a part of the 49ners' Super Bowl XVI (16) and XIX (19) championship teams.
It was Pillers' fierce rushing attack in the 1981 NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys that solidified the 49ers' spot in the championship game. Pillers tackled Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Danny White, and forced a fumble that the 49ers recovered to capture the victory.
As Pillers reminisced about that moment, he remembered how it felt to play a significant role in one of the team's biggest games.
"It felt amazing. Words can't express that feeling. To be recognized as an unsung hero and get the opportunity to not only play in the Super Bowl but also to win it was remarkable."
Becoming a two-time Super Bowl champion with one of the leagues most notable dynasties is something that Pillers will always cherish. He appreciates the bond that he formed with his teammates.
"Being a part of the NFL was amazing. It was a feeling that was indescribable. While playing with Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott, we created a brotherly bond. We all had the same goal and ambition to win a Super Bowl, but we never imagined winning two."
After hanging up his cleats and saying goodbye to the NFL, Pillers sat out on another career journey that allowed him to care for the mentally ill at the Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield, Mississippi. While employed there, he developed a passion for helping others.
"From that time on, I've had compassion for helping people with mental illness and developmental issues. Things happen for a reason, and the inspiration is knowing you can be happy and improve your life."
By reaching the finish line of his education, Pillers' dedication to academic excellence is proof that achieving a degree at any age is possible. He plans to spread his message to others who strive to follow in his footsteps while continuing to set new goals for himself.
"My future goal is to tell others that they can be the best, and it's never too late to get your degree. If the opportunity presents itself, I may pursue a career in coaching."