The thought processes of University of Kentucky senior defensive tackle Corey Peters have always been a little different from most players'.
Take the first time he ran out of the tunnel at Commonwealth Stadium.
The first game you run out as a freshman, 'Most people are like, 'Wow, this is amazing,' " Peters said. "I'm thinking 'I can't believe this many people are here for a football game.' It's kind of like me and my brother playing chess. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter."
While most players with his size and talent level visualize being the next Warren Sapp, his dream job is to become another Coach Carter.
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"The NFL was never really my goal," Peters said. "You hear all these young players coming up like, 'I gotta make it; I gotta make it.' I never thought like that. My goal was to be a teacher. My parents always put it in my head that football was just a game."
And at a position where players are taught to breathe fire and spit nails, Peters' laid-back, introspective demeanor reminds you of a beat poet's.
Being a football player never has, and probably never will, define Peters. He has twice been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll and is a self-proclaimed deep thinker. And as well-rounded as Peters is off the field, he's certainly been productive on it. His career so far includes 97 tackles, 16 for loss, and 71/2 sacks over three seasons.
Yet, one won't find Peters' name on many pre-season All-Southeastern Conference or All-America lists. His low profile is partly because he played three years in the shadows of Myron Pryor and Jeremy Jarmon, who will both play in the NFL this fall. UK defensive coordinator Steve Brown also said Peters' demeanor is a factor in his lack of national buzz.
"He just makes 'quiet' plays and does his job," Brown said. "Myron was more flashy. I remember talking to Corey this spring and saying, 'If you work just a little harder, you could be All-SEC.' He said to me, 'Really?' That tells me he doesn't even know how good he can be."
When asked whether he has noticed the slights, Peters said, "Most definitely. But when you start getting your name in the paper, other coaches and players take notice. I'd rather fly under the radar. And as long as my coaches appreciate what I do, it doesn't matter."
Defensive line coach Rick Petri certainly appreciates Peters' contributions. Especially his durability. After missing two games with a sprained knee as a freshman, Peters has played in 26 straight, including 25 starts. That's rare for defensive tackles, who tend to stay banged up after being inside the trenches week in and week out.
"Corey Peters has played three years for us, never misses practices or games, plays either tackle spot, and plays well against whoever he lines up against," Petri said. "He hasn't had the publicity that others have, but he's had just as big of a presence and impact on what we've done defensively the last three years. From the day he stepped in here, he's helped us be better."
Peters said he'd like to become the head football coach at Central, his alma mater in Louisville. He'll get some on-the-job training this year as the lone returning starter from UK's standout defensive line. In addition to losing Jarmon and Pryor, the Cats will be without end Ventrell Jenkins, who is also in NFL camp with the Buffalo Bills.
"He wants to be a coach, he'll definitely get his chance this year," Petri said. "He's going to have to be our anchor, not only in terms of production, but we'll be counting on him to lead and groom these young guys in the right direction. We expect him to do an outstanding job."
Said Peters: "We'll have a lot of young players. It's something that I'm looking forward to. I've accepted the challenge. I'm going to have to lead by example, and be more vocal than I'd like to be."
Peters isn't as big or explosive as Pryor, but he's a smart, observant and technically sound player who uses good footwork and leverage that he gained from his wrestling background. Peters lettered four years in wrestling at Central and finished sixth in the state as a senior.
"Wrestling teaches you about one-on-one situations," Peters said. "The instincts you use in wrestling and the ones you use in the trenches on the football field go hand in hand. My wrestling skills have gotten me out of lot of bad positions on the football field. I recommend it for any lineman."
Brown's only knock on Peters is that he wants him to be meaner on the field.
"I don't think he has a mean bone in his body," Brown said. "If he did, he could be great. I'm trying to figure out what will work. I don't know if we have to do him like Bobby Boucher (from The Waterboy) and talk about his mama or what. A lot of the best games I had was when I had a fight with my girlfriend before the game. It was like, 'I'll show her.' We'll just have to find something that will offend him. (Fellow defensive tackle) Ricky Lumpkin's the same way. They're both likable, sharp, great young men that have got to be a little more nasty and filthy."
Peters admits that mean doesn't come easy for him.
"I'm working on it," he said. "That's something my brother's been on me about since I've been out of high school, too. I'm trying to develop that, but it's difficult for me because I still have that mentality that it's just a game. But I've learned to appreciate the game for what it is."
And while the NFL never was a part of his master plan, Peters realizes that he's a legitimate prospect and is preparing himself that way. Still, football won't define Peters.
"I just plan on using the NFL as a vehicle to get to where I want to go," Peters said. "If you play six, seven, eight years in the league, the sky's the limit as far as the influence you can have on young people."