Oct. 17, 2006
by Ira Green
After moving to the west coast, UCF senior tailback Jason Peters is now back in Florida where his life and desire to play college football began. Although many people consider a move across the country to be distant and relatively tough, Peters has no need to feel isolated. He comes from a large family that surrounds him no matter where he goes, even if he leaves the country.
"The only people on the west coast are my mom, my aunt, my brother, my sister and my little cousin," said Peters. "My mom has four sisters and six brothers that live in Ft. Lauderdale; my grandma also lives in Ft. Lauderdale. I have aunts in Jamaica, England and in Canada. I get to see that part of my family a lot more."
A native Floridian, Peters lived in Ft. Lauderdale until his freshman year in high school, when he moved to Seattle, Wash.
Extremely family-oriented, Peters has reached out to relatives everywhere. Many college students who do that are usually looking for a favor or are in need of something, but that is not typical of Peters. Whether with a third cousin or his brother, he shows the same compassion to everyone.
"Family is very important," said Peters. "I categorize some of my cousins as my brothers and sisters. My mother was a single mom so she had my brother, my sister and I stay with my aunt when my mom was at work. My family in south Florida will drive up here for any little thing. It goes God, family and then everything else."
A humble man and player, the occasions are rare that you will see Peters celebrating or speaking out on the field. Many classify him as a very quiet-natured player on the gridiron as well as in the locker room. Despite his calmness, he is still considered a senior leader for the Golden Knights.
Even on campus, despite his build, it is very difficult to pick Peters out of the crowd because he easily blends in with the rest of the students at UCF. He considers himself to be quiet unless he is out with teammates. The quietness was one thing that UCF running backs coach Jim Bernhardt noticed.
"I think he's quiet by nature," said Bernhardt. "He has a great personality. He is not going to walk into a room and takeover; that is not his nature. He is a real bright, articulate young guy. He gives a quiet leadership that is more by example. I would not say that he is a leader naturally, but I do think that he sets a good example for some of the young guys we have on our roster as well."
With his performance last year, Peters can let his on-the-field work do all of the talking. In 2005, his first year as Golden Knight, he totaled 585 yards and five touchdowns. He also averaged 5.6 yards per carry, much of it thanks to a hard-nosed playing style.
During his high school career in Seattle, Peters was slender at six-feet tall and 190 pounds, nowhere near his physical stature now. With his build, he can explode with a boom. For the Golden Knights, Peter's offers a change in direction from the sophomore Kevin Smith, the squad's quicker starting tailback.
"As players, I think it starts with a different type of build," said Bernhardt. "Jason, being six-foot-two, 230 pounds, is more of a power back. Kevin is more of a slasher. Kevin has great vision. Jason does too. I think that is something all good backs have. I think their style in terms of how they hit a hole and how they finish a run is a little different. It is power to speed; it is thunder to lightning."
Even though Peters is referred to as thunder, he showed his speed when he pulled off the fifth-longest run in school history last season with a 67-yard carry against East Carolina. That is the player he knows he can be.
"I used to be smaller, but I was always fast," said Peters. "I started growing in college and I had another growth spurt and finally started to fill out. I do not have an uncle under six-foot-three, 250 pounds. When I got to junior college, I was only 205 pounds. Now I am 227 pounds and that is the heaviest playing weight I have ever been. I still feel like I have my speed though."
One reason Peters is so successful is because he can operate both as a power back and a speedy one. Playing on the west coast in Washington and California, he was exposed to more finesse-style runners. On the east coast, he realized the players are much bigger, therefore it is more of a hard-hitting, north-to-south running style.
West-coast style runners usually slip through holes and use fancy footwork to evade tacklers. It is very rare to see a highlight reel full of tailbacks bulldozing linebackers and safeties. However, Peters is one of the rare spectacles.
"I would rather run over somebody for a big run," said Peters. "If you break those small holes, anybody will say that the line did the work. That gain after the contact, that is what a back is supposed to do. Anybody can get a hole and just run straight, but when you create something and get a big gain, that is good."
Prior to his stint at UCF, Peters played at Butte College in Oroville, Calif. While at Butte, he was named all-state and all-conference at tailback. Peters accumulated 2,577 yards in his two-year career with the team.
No matter where Peters has played, he has been able to adjust to the levels of competition. Many athletes notice the amount of change from junior college football to Division I-A. Peters did not feel there was a noticeable change.
"After touching the ball, I feel like it is faster [at this level] but I do not feel like there is much of a difference from junior college," said Peters. "There are a lot of the junior college teams that you play that have people that go to Division I so you are playing against the same people, just in a lower class. They are not as developed technique-wise at that level. As far as skill-wise, I think you have a lot of the same people."
Under the tutelage of UCF head coach George O'Leary and Bernhardt, Peters has improved his game since he arrived in Orlando. The coaching staff has showed him that there is more to football than just the physical aspect of the game. Peters admits that he never truly understood a blitz until he came to UCF, but is now fully aware of defensive schemes thanks to Bernhardt.
Entering his final year at UCF, there is much that Peters will miss about the school and its football program.
"I am always going to watch this program even after I am done," said Peters. "The thing that I am going to miss is that discipline. Although I know I can keep up with it after I leave, it is not the same. Being around coach O'Leary humbles you. He will tell you, `no one in here is an all-star regardless of what the newspapers and media say. Everyone is equal.' I will miss that."