COLUMBIA, S.C. – No offense to the rest of the coaches on South Carolina’s staff, but none of them boast an NFL resume like outside linebackers coach Mike Peterson.
Fourteen years in the league speaks for itself.
“You can always tell. He brings a lot – in the meeting rooms, he brings intensity,” said senior Darius English, who plays the “buck” position, which is a hybrid of outside linebacker and defensive end.
“(Peterson) has a lot of young energy, so he brings that in the meeting rooms. He definitely gives us examples of things when he played.”
Peterson was a second-round draft pick by the Colts in 1999. After four seasons in Indianapolis, his next stop was with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2005. From 2009-12, Peterson played his final years in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons.
“It’s definitely exciting going into that meeting room and having perspective from a guy who’s actually played in the NFL 14 years,” English said. “Having his opinion on things has definitely helped me.”
Upon retirement, Peterson returned to Florida in 2013 to complete his degree. He first worked as an undergraduate assistant coach on the Gators strength and conditioning staff then took over as its coordinator after graduating.
In late January Peterson became the final piece to Will Muschamp’s first coaching staff at South Carolina.
“First of all, I’m lucky,” Peterson said. “It’s a lucky situation to be up under a guy who’s respected around college football and also in the NFL ranks of being in the top ranks of X’s and O’s coaches.
“To learn from coach Muschamp, to work with (Travaris Robinson) on a daily basis, Lance Thompson on a daily basis – you can play the game so long, but there’s always things you can learn from coaches.”
That’s the message Peterson hopes to pass along to his players. But he understands what his NFL credentials mean to the kids they’re coaching.
“A lot of these kids grew up watching me play on Sunday, so I think it’s a natural thing, maybe for them to listen to me a different way,” Peterson said. “My thing is I’ve got to use that in the right way, show them the way, show them how it’s done, show them the things to do, how to take care of your body, how to watch tape, things to do away from the game.
“I think they look at me a little different than a lot of guys. That comes with the territory.”
To help find his coaching style, Peterson thought back to his playing days.
“I shoot (players) straight … I’m hard on them at times and I love them when it’s time to love them up,” he said. “I take a style that’s probably a little different from a lot of guys, but I use what I would have wanted when I was a player, the type of coach that I would have wanted coaching me when I was a player.”