Video: Pierson-El breaks punt return in first preseason game

Former West Potomac star De’Mornay Pierson-El made a splash in his preseason debut for the Oakland Raiders, returning a punt for 51 yards during his team’s 14-3 win against the Los Angeles Rams.

Pierson-El’s big play came during the 3rd quarter — just as Raiders QB Derek Carr was being interviewed on the sideline during the TV broadcast. But Pierson-El quickly became the center of attention, catching the ball around his own 10 yard line, making two Rams tacklers miss and then turning on the speed before getting tripped up by one of the last defenders who had a shot.

The played was called back by a holding penalty, but the runback nevertheless gives Pierson-El, a free agent rookie, a boost in his quest to make the 53-man roster. A 2014 graduate of West Potomac and a 2018 graduate of the University of Nebraska, Pierson-El has persevered through many ups and downs to get to this point. He didn’t make an NFL roster last season after getting some time with the Redskins in training camp. He then had a brief stint with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes before catching on with the Salt Lake City Stallions of the now-defunct AAF earlier this year.

Pierson-El made enough of his time in the AAF to earn a free agent shot with the Raiders, who signed him this spring, then released him, and then re-signed him just before training camp.

Saturday marked the first official NFL game action for the 5-foot-9, 195-pound Pierson-El. It was an adventure at times as he returned a total of seven punts (not counting the one that was called back). Pierson-El was clobbered on an illegal hit before he could catch one punt, and then muffed another before the Raiders recovered. But he redeemed himself with the long runback, which brought the home crowd in Oakland to its feet.

Aside from his return duties, Pierson-El is also competing for a slot receiver spot on the Raiders’ roster, and caught one pass for 15 yards against the Rams.