Atlanta Falcons rookie Corey Peters is more than just a massive defensive tackle. A graduate of the University of Kentucky with a degree in history, he also knows a thing of two about our country, particularly in his area of interest: the Old South and the U.S. prior to the Civil War.
In fact, long before he began to realize his potential as a football prospect, Peters’ dream was to be a teacher, which he says he’ll still follow through on after his playing days are over.
During the final day of Organized Team Activities last month in Flowery Branch, Peters, a third-round draft selection by the Falcons, chatted with Times sports writer Bill Murphy about his first glimpse of life as an NFL player, the sports scene at Kentucky and his plans for life after football.
Question: Has the OTA process been a lot of new things being thrown at you at once?
Answer: Most definitely. I think that’s the focus here that you really learn the playbook going into camp. Summer camp really isn’t the time you want to be struggling with what you’re supposed to be doing.
If anything, we just have to really learn the playbook. Then we have a month off and just have to continue to study it and be 100 percent sure when time comes to come back into camp.
Q: What is your first impression of the Atlanta Falcons?
A: I’m extremely impressed. I think there is great leadership on the team and a lot of guys step up and try to get you going and try to give you positive feedback. They also let you know when you’re doing bad, so it’s all been positive. I’m expecting big things from the defense.
You know, it’s hard to have a measuring stick since I’ve never played in the NFL, but the offensive line seems pretty good to me, so I’m looking forward to this year and we’ll be able to build on last year.
Q: What was it like playing football at the University of Kentucky where basketball is king?
A: In my time at Kentucky, it was very positive. My freshman year, we won eight games, so the support from that kind of carried on throughout my career. If you think back three or four years, the basketball team wasn’t doing so well. They really kind of regained their momentum this year, so obviously it’s a basketball school, but our success in football gave the fans something to cheer about and really get behind us.
Now the support for football, I doubt that it will ever equal basketball at Kentucky, but the fans are really supportive of the football program too. It was a great place to play football.
Q: Did you spend a lot of time at Rupp Arena watching the basketball team play?
A: Quite a bit actually. They allowed us to buy student tickets and that sort of thing, so we shared the same academic facilities as the basketball team, so some relationships were formed there. We came in and watched once in a while, but we couldn’t make it to all the games.
Q: You had a big game against Georgia last season. How did you do in that game?
A: Actually, I had a pretty good second half against Georgia. I was continuing to try to play hard and they provided some opportunities and we took advantage of our opportunities to make plays.
I really didn’t do anything special. As a defensive tackle, you only have a few opportunities to make big plays and you have to take advantage of those chances. I ended up forcing a fumble and had a couple of tackles for losses against Georgia. I also had a sack on the Georgia quarterback that killed a drive, and hit the quarterback and forced a bad pass into an interception.
Q: What was it like being a part of Kentucky’s teams that went to four straight bowl games?
A: The amazing thing about going to Kentucky was that I could see the change in attitude from the time I got there coming off a 2-10 campaign and coming off of probation, but seeing the fans come out more and more and really starting to support us. We beat Georgia my freshman year.
We beat LSU when they were No. 1 my sophomore year. We just built on that and the fans continued to support us. Kentucky is at the point where we’re trying to get up in those 10-win seasons, and if we don’t then it’s a disappointment.
Q: Did you have any other aspirations growing up besides football?
A: To be completely honest, I really wanted to be a teacher. The football thing is a blessing. I always loved the game of football, but growing up it was just a game. You know, growing up when everyone is playing in the like the eighth grade, everyone says, ‘ohh I want to play football or basketball when I grow up.’
When I got into middle school, I enjoyed playing football, but my main goal was to be a teacher. That’s still my passion. I hopefully will be able to do that 15 years from now and after a long career in the NFL. My degree was in history in college, and I really like studying the Old South and before the Civil War. That’s my favorite part of American history.
Q: What was it like to grow up in a city like Louisville?
A: It’s not Atlanta but it’s pretty big. It’s a great place to be from and I still go back occasionally. The schools that I went to there made me the person I am today.