At just past 8:30 last night, I punched in Pat Pierson's cell number into my phone. After a half-dozen rings, the call went to an automated attendant, which left me with the following message:
''The mailbox is full and can't accept any messages at this time.''
As I hung up, I couldn't help but smile.
Pierson, the Frewsburg native and assistant athletic director for communications at Florida Gulf Coast University, may be one of the most in-demand people in collegiate sports right now. Without him, media from all corners of our hoops-loving nation can't gain access to Coach Andy Enfield, forward Sherwood Brown or point guard Brett Comer, who until 10 days ago were virtually unknown outside their Fort Myers campus.
But with victories over No. 2 Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State last weekend, the No. 15 Eagles are in the Sweet 16 and are the story of the NCAA Tournament.
With that in mind, I didn't expect to have a chance to chat with Pierson until the Eagles' season was over.
Fifteen minutes later, my cell phone rang.
It was Pierson.
''It's been organized chaos,'' he said with a laugh. ''Or, I should say, attempted organized chaos.''
By Pierson's estimates, his office has received 1,000 emails with requests of all sorts.
''It's been unbelievable,'' he said. ''I'm sorry to all the people who have texted me and I haven't returned them. ... It's been tiring, but, at the same time, the adrenaline from what I'm doing keeps me going.''
Pierson, who spent six years at St. Bonaventure University, arrived at FGCU in July 2010 when he became the school's fourth full-time director of sports information. Last summer, the Frewsburg Central School graduate was promoted to his current position.
Now, nearly nine months later, Pierson and his staff of four find themselves in the middle of one of the best basketball stories in years.
''You can't imagine this kind of stuff (for basketball),'' he said. ''You can imagine (the success) for some of our other sports - baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, golf and tennis - but men's basketball, we all know, is a different monster. It's harder to make that transition, because of funding, your facilities and your recruiting budget.''
Keep in mind, the school opened just 16 years ago. And, there's this to consider from an Associated Press story that ran in The Post-Journal on Tuesday: Of the 19 banners hanging in the Eagles' gym to commemorate various accomplishments, the earliest entry on them is for a women's volleyball trip to the NCAA Division II tournament in 2004.
''I think what makes it so much better is that we're so young,'' Pierson said. ''The storylines attached to our program make this so unique and such a great story.'
Pierson's story is pretty cool, too.
Inspired by the faculty at Frewsburg Central School, specifically the late Mary Lou Edwards, Pierson attended Robert Morris (Pa.) University where he worked for SID Jim Duzyk and ultimately received a bachelor's degree in sports management. Upon his graduation, Pierson went to work for Steve Mest at St. Bonaventure University.
''He took a chance on a guy from Robert Morris and Western New York,'' Pierson said. ''He taught me everything I know - how to talk to people, how to relate to people and how to show that you care. You have to be able to adapt to people and what you do. All those people helped me learn those things.''
Pierson has had to demonstrate many of those qualities this week, which will culminate with the Eagles' trip to north Texas where they will meet No. 3 Florida at Cowboys Stadium.
''For me, I'm a Buffalo Bills fan, very loyal,'' Pierson said, ''but Jerry Jones (the Cowboys owner) is one of my favorite people in sports. The ... investment he's made into his franchise, to me, is terrific.''
Here's guessing that Jones would call Florida Gulf Coast's ride to Arlington, Texas pretty terrific, too.
''I can't imagine what's going to be going on in the players' minds,'' Pierson said. ''That stadium is one of the best in the world.''
Through the first weekend of March Madness, the Eagles are one of the best 16 college basketball teams in the country.
For his part, Pierson, the son of Greg and Debbie Pierson, is making Frewsburg proud, too, even if he's a little tardy at returning his text messages.