2023 CFL Draft profiles: Ottawa LB James Peter turned down running back offers for chance to play defence

2023 CFL Draft profiles: Ottawa LB James Peter turned down operating again provides for probability to play defence

Picture courtesy: OUA

The soccer is probably the most valuable useful resource in all of sport. Its allocation can divide locker rooms and fracture relationships. Receivers clamour to get their justifiable share. Linemen beg to the touch it simply as soon as.

All people on the sector needs their probability to hold the pigskin. All people, apart from James Peter.

At five-foot-nine and 220 kilos, the 2023 CFL Draft prospect is strictly the kind of person who groups would love handy the rock to. He was as soon as rattling good at it too, incomes curiosity from packages throughout the nation as a highschool operating again recruit with a punishing model that he modelled after NFL star Adrian Peterson.

“I used to be actually massive on simply trucking guys,” Peter recalled with amusing throughout a current sit down with 3DownNation. “I’m really quick however I used to be actually only a downhill runner. I wasn’t a lot of a juker however once I hit you, you felt it and a number of guys wouldn’t be capable to deal with me.”

Whereas most dream of the glory that comes with being a workhorse ball service, Peter had little curiosity in persevering with alongside that path. When it got here time for him to pick out his post-secondary vacation spot, he selected his hometown College of Ottawa — not as a result of it was shut, however as a result of it was the one faculty in Canada that was keen to let him play linebacker.

Usually the reverse is true, with recruits turning down provides which may see them lose out on offensive touches. Peter’s totally different perspective continues to set him other than his friends.

“I’m the kind of man who likes going to get my very own meals. I prefer to go eat myself. I don’t like ready, I don’t like being handed the ball, it’s simply not me,” he smiled.

“I don’t like different individuals controlling my destiny as a lot and I felt like with offence, a coach type of controls your destiny relying on when you guys run the ball quite a bit otherwise you guys cross quite a bit. Defence, it’s like, okay, go make a play.”

Six years later, his resolution to stay to defence remains to be paying off. After an All-Canadian senior season, Peter was named the Sixteenth-best prospect within the 2023 Draft in line with the CFL’s winter Scouting Bureau rankings and is anticipated to impress later this month on the Nationwide Mix.

Nonetheless, the 23-year-old hardly matches the mould of a Canadian linebacker on the subsequent degree. Although he performed the weakside in faculty, many have projected him as a real center linebacker however that’s an awfully tall process — no pun supposed — whenever you give up half a foot to the common offensive guard.

Many gifted homegrown defenders have suffered within the eyes of scouts as a consequence of related vertical challenges. Some have gone undrafted and others have confronted a conversion to fullback in an try and discover a function.

Peter is much extra athletically gifted than lots of these names and his regular draft inventory exhibits that almost all stay bullish on his skills. However, there’s a current precedent for an athletic Gee-Gees linebacker getting flipped to offence, with extremely touted strongside prospect Jackson Bennett turning into a top quality backup operating again with the Redblacks.

Peter seemed as much as Bennett when he first arrived on campus however he refuses to observe in his footsteps. He’s been finished with offence for a very long time; those that fail to spot his deserves as a real linebacker can be confirmed unsuitable like all the remainder.

“I’ve all the time been undersized, I’ve all the time been the underdog. Lots of people overlook me due to my measurement however on the finish of the day, I’ve the center and the eagerness,” he emphasised. “Once I hit any person that’s larger than me, I do know they’ll really feel that coronary heart and fervour once I hit.”

“In the event that they do carry up my measurement, I’ve the tape. I’ve confirmed myself.”

Doing so took time, as Peter redshirted his first season at Ottawa and was a minor contributor in every of the subsequent two, chipping in with 14.5 and 13.5 tackles respectively. The fluidity and physicality required on defence got here naturally to him, however he was nonetheless growing as a participant.

The bounce ahead got here because of the COVID pandemic and the cancelled 2020 season. The absence of the sport made him ask some robust questions and the solutions induced him to recommit to coaching, constructing a makeshift health club in his basement and going above and past to make sure he might get area time in the course of winter.

“I actually sat down and talked to myself. I needed to resolve whether or not soccer was the trail and I really feel like that COVID yr, that’s what it did for lots of people,” Peter defined.

“I believe that’s type of what separated me from different individuals. I took that initiative. Not a number of guys shovel the sector at nighttime and within the morning simply to run on it, particularly in Canada.”

The shortened 2021 marketing campaign was his greatest ever, tallying 36.5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks in simply six video games. Nonetheless, it proved to be a tumultuous yr for this system as an entire, one which challenged the linebacker to develop extra as a frontrunner than as a participant.

Shortly after the Gee-Gees’ season-opening loss to the College of Toronto, fifth-year defensive lineman Francis Perron collapsed. The 25-year-old was later pronounced lifeless, a tragedy which despatched the locker room into shock and had a tangible impression on the remainder of the workforce’s season. Simply coming into his personal as a veteran, Peter felt the burden of comforting his teammates.

“In these moments, you must be robust. It’s robust, however you must. Being a captain on my workforce, I couldn’t present these feelings,” he recalled. “Sure, you may be weak, however you continue to must uphold your workforce as a result of everybody’s counting on you on the similar time.”

Sadly, it was not the primary time that Ottawa had been dealt a devastating loss throughout his time on the faculty. Defensive lineman Koic Layembe immediately handed away in his sleep in 2017, early in Peter’s freshman season. Watching the workforce management deal with that loss of life helped put together him for what he would want to do as soon as he was thrust into that function.

“It’s similar to a kind of issues the place it’s like, ‘How can I transfer ahead?’” he defined. “As unhappy because it sounds, life doesn’t cease. The world doesn’t cease shifting, doesn’t cease revolving. You simply decide up no matter items you possibly can and hold going ahead with it.”

The Gee-Gees completed with a 4-4 file that season, shedding to Queen’s within the second spherical of the OUA playoffs. In 2022, they improved to 7-3 however suffered an an identical destiny. Alongside the best way, Peter blossomed into the nation’s greatest linebacker, amassing 58 tackles, three tackles for loss and two compelled fumbles final season.

Regardless of his unusually small measurement, he has confirmed to be a drive to be reckoned with within the field, flying downhill with unbridled ferocity. He’s explosive and instinctual towards the run, flashing an athletic profile that greater than compensates for the additional headroom he’ll get on workforce flights.

Whereas he greater than passes the attention take a look at shifting in area, Peter’s workload in protection has been restricted throughout the Gee-Gees’ scheme. He’s centered on proving to groups in the course of the pre-draft course of that he may be trusted to cowl receivers on the skilled degree, giving him the flexibleness to line up at weakside linebacker in addition to within the center.

“I actually really feel like my eyes could possibly be quite a bit higher. I actually wish to work on my zone drops, my zone reads and stuff like that,” he admitted. “I’ve the quickness, I’ve the twitch, I’ve the reactive pace to do it however the eyes are robust as a result of I didn’t actually do it a lot in college. They’d me taking part in conventional linebacker, simply hitting gaps.”

Step one in that course of got here in January when Peter carried out on the School Gridiron Showcase in Fort Value, Texas. It was his first time taking part in the four-down sport and even stepping foot in the USA, however he punched above his weight class towards NCAA competitors and didn’t look misplaced regardless of his comparatively small stature.

Subsequent comes the CFL Mix, the place Peter will attempt to make a case to be the primary linebacker chosen on this yr’s draft. The 5 days of testing and arranged observe will present skeptical expertise evaluators precisely what his body seems like competing towards different elite prospects.

He’s keen to do absolutely anything that the coaches ask to show his worth. Simply don’t ask him to line up at operating again.

“I really feel like I may cause havoc for the offence on all sides as a defender,” Peter grinned. “Sideline to sideline, particular groups, tackling, operating down the sector, punt return, all of it.”

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