My tribute to Paul Peterson
I don’t know Paul Peterson. His story -- the unwanted underdog -- is great, but that is not why he is my favorite BC athlete of all-time. In honor of his and his wife’s recent graduation, I thought I would write one final tribute to him.
I was only eight during Doug Flutie’s run at the Heights. While I remember the Miami game and have watched his BC games on ESPN classic, I didn’t really live through them as a diehard fan. Paul Peterson might be as close to Doug Flutie as I’ll ever get. While his accomplishments don’t measure up to Flutie’s, his success and style of play -- given his surroundings -- made Peterson’s nearly as special.
I became a BC student in the fall of 1994 and have watched every game since. In that time we have had some quarterbacks who showed flashes of brilliance and pro potential, but all still played safely within the system. We also had our share of robotic stiffs. Peterson was different. Whether it was his age and JUCO experience or his need to compensate for his size and arm strength, Paul saw the field differently and made choices his predecessors did not. When he first arrived you heard reports of things being different, but TOB and Bible still went with Quinton Porter (who fit their prototype). Peterson saw limited play but couldn’t (or wasn’t given the chance to) unseat Porter. When Quinton went down with an injury, and the season on the brink Peterson played well in a comeback win against Rutgers. This is when I started gaining confidence, but it was the next week against Virginia Tech where he confirmed he was something special. BC was a heavy underdog going into Blacksburg. The team was playing well and Peterson was making the plays to keep drives alive. Then he rolled right on a scramble and flung a ball to Grant Adams in the endzone. A 30-yard TD should not be a big deal, but I jumped off of my couch. That was not what was supposed to happen to BC during broken plays. Prior to Peterson, everyone would come back toward the QB to bail him out. With Peterson, it changed. He turned broken plays into big plays. And had the confidence to take a risk. BC football was exciting again.
Peterson kept up this style of play through the end of the 2003 season and the start of the 2004. Then Wake Forest. He moved the ball, but we just couldn’t get it in the endzone and missed three back-breaking field goals. Wake made a fluke play late in the game to take the lead and eventually win. I was sitting there, stunned and disappointed. As the players walked into the locker room, one guy remained on the field -- Paul Peterson. He was crouched with his helmet in his hands. For the first time in a long time, it looked like a player cared as much as I did. I am sure others have cared more, and as a spectator, I don’t claim to get as emotionally of physically involved as a player. But seeing Paul share my frustration connected with me more than taking a class with a player or hanging out with one in my mod.
The season progressed, with its share of highs (Notre Dame) and lows (Pitt and Syracuse). Regardless of how many clunkers he might have thrown or my frustration with other parts of the team, Peterson made the games fun and gave me the confidence we were never out of it.
When I started this blog around the holidays, I wrote about how I skipped the Tire Bowl out of frustration with the Syracuse loss (in which Peterson did not play). At the time it seemed like the team looked past the Orange or missed the Peterson’s leadership. Well, I decided if they didn’t care, I wasn’t going to care. Of course I still watched the game. I regret missing it in person, because it summed up what made Peterson so special. Although his hand was still hurting, he moved the ball effectively and kept the team in the game. Then, while scrambling, he lost the ball due to the same injured hand. Staying poised, Peterson fell on the ball and got trampled. Broken leg. Season over. Game over. College career over. Many guys would have pouted or at least focused on the injury. But there was Paul watching the jumbotron and cheering as the team converted a fake kick into a touchdown. Big smile on his face. It wasn’t the Flutie pass, but it was a dramatic end to a great run.
Paul, thank you for the joy you brought to this fan. Thank you for making the games exciting. Thank you for caring. Your BC career was too short, but I will certainly remember it fondly. Don’t give up your dreams. (Doug Flutie didn’t stick in the NFL until his mid-30s.) Best of luck to you and Meghan (whom my friend Logitano met at Temple. His assessment: “She’s hot”.) As you follow your path I know you will continue to exemplify our alma mater’s motto -- Ever to Excel.