It's become almost cliche at this point, but every year it seems you can count on there being a highly talented NFL draft prospect with off-the-field red flags who takes to the press to try to rehabilitate his image in an effort to boost his draft stock. This year one of those prospects is former Husky CB Marcus Peters.
Nobody questions the talent Peters possesses, talent that would place him in the upper half of the first round...were it not for some major red flags. As Husky fans remember all too well, Peters did not adjust well to the coaching transition - first it was getting himself suspended for a game after throwing a sideline tantrum vs. Eastern Washington, and then later in the season getting himself booted from the team. It was later alleged that he had choked a coach at practice which led to that dismissal, a claim the coaching staff strongly denied.
Peters opens up to Tom Pelissero in this revealing profile in USA Today and discusses all of it. It's a great read, so go check it out. I do want to focus on a few key areas:
"It was an avalanche ready to happen, man. It was going to collapse sooner or later," Peters told USA TODAY Sports this week, in his first interview since Petersen dismissed him from the team in November. I don't blame (Petersen) for anything. All I can blame is myself, because I made those decisions and I have to live with them. Now I'll have to man up and I've got to answer these questions in interviews, and all I can do is sit there and answer truthfully and honestly."
While it's easy to be cynical about mea culpas - especially ones that clearly stand to benefit the player financially - this certainly does come across as a genuine bit of reflection and honesty on his part. We can certainly hope for his sake that he gets it, and even if he does, self-awareness does not necessarily mean he can avoid the emotional outbursts in the heat of the moment.
Last year was all about transition for Peters: new coaches, new scheme, new expectations and new responsibilities as father to a son, Carson, who was born the morning of the Huskies' Oct. 18 loss to Oregon. He admits he didn't handle the cocktail of changes well.
It's easy for me at age 45 to say this, but get used to it Marcus - life can throw you curveballs and you have to learn to adjust. To be fair to him, I can easily imagine the stress of impending fatherhood at the same time as adapting to a new coaching staff and scheme, at the same time as entering what is likely your final season in college in anticipation of potentially becoming a high draft choice, and all on top of being in school and working towards a degree. That's a lot to process.
"If he believes in you like you believe in him, Marcus will do any and everything you ask of him. That has never been an issue," said Donté Williams, a former Washington graduate assistant who now coaches defensive backs at San Jose State.
"It's no different than any other football player. They're all a little strong-headed, a little strong-willed at times. But once he understands the relationship – that you're the coach, he's the player, this is what I need you to do – Marcus has no problem doing that."
This is interesting in that Williams strongly implies that Peters didn't believe in his new coaches. Whether that was unfamiliarity and adjusting to a new style, or something more fundamental is unknown. If I'm an NFL GM, this is the part that worries me - if I draft this guy, is he going to butt heads with my coaching staff if he doesn't agree with everything they're teaching him?
A rising star who had eight interceptions over his first two college seasons, Peters says he failed one drug test for marijuana during his redshirt year in 2011 but went clean from there and never was in trouble under former coach Steve Sarkisian's staff.
"Everything was going right on course for me to break out to be a next-level prospect," Peters said. "Then, Sark left us (for USC). Sark left us, and for me, it was heartbreaking."
My understanding is things weren't quite so rosy under Sark's watch, and Peters was having more issues than he admits to. But it is interesting to see how much the previous coaching staff meant to him and how much it threw him off.
Last week, Peters said, he went to Seattle to pay a $124 fine related to that case. He also stopped in to see Petersen, who will let him participate in Washington's pro-day workout April 2, Peters said.
"I apologized to him once again, and I told him that I appreciate him even working with me," Peters said. "They were working with me a lot, and I just – I didn't get it. I didn't see it in front of me that they were trying to help me out.
"To be honest, I would tell you today: Why wouldn't you kick me off the team? He was trying to help me. He was teaching me some hard lessons at that time, and I just didn't take it right."
It's nice to hear that Petersen is letting him participate in pro-day and that there don't appear to be any hard feelings. It speaks well of Petersen that he doesn't seem to be holding a grudge, and it's encouraging that Peters isn't either. If he can learn from this episode and learn to control his temper, he's got a world of ability that could lead to a long and productive career. He's saying the right things, and for his sake I hope he's genuine. I wish him the best.