Pierre-Paul attended Deerfield (Fla.) High School. He initially played basketball, but switched to football after breaking his leg for a third time while dunking. Keeping his decision to play football hidden from his parents, he joined the football team for a playoff game during his junior season. After debating whether or not to continue playing, he returned for his senior year.
Pierre-Paul went to Central Florida but left after his freshman season because of academic issues. He played at two junior colleges before going to South Florida for his junior season. He totaled 45 tackles (27 solo, 18 assists), 16.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 13 games. He also returned an interception 18 yards for a TD against Syracuse.
While Pierre-Paul was terrorizing opposing quarterbacks on the field, he was impressing scouts and reporters with his pure athleticism off the field. The most famous instance came during a practice for the International Bowl, when he was videotaped performing 14 backflips in a row without stopping. "I can do 23 if I have to," Pierre-Paul told reporters.
Pierre-Paul declared for the 2010 NFL Draft after his junior season at USF. He quickly proved to be one of the best raw athletes at the Combine, running a 4.67 40-yard dash time and benching 225 pounds 19 times.
The Giants drafted Pierre-Paul 15th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. He played in all 16 games during his rookie year as a substitute in the Giants' defensive end rotation, accumulating 22 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
Pierre-Paul evolved into one of the league's best pass rushers in 2011. He made 87 tackles, had a team-high 16.5 sacks, and forced two fumbles. As a result, he was named a first-team All-Pro and was voted to his first Pro Bowl.
Pierre-Paul played the game of his career in a must-win Week 15 showdown against the Cowboys, recording two sacks and a safety and blocking a game-tying field goal with one second left to help the Giants win, 37-34, and keep their playoff hopes alive.