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Sports >  Whitworth

Winning combination

A better understanding of the game should help make rifle-armed Peterson a special player

Trottier (Dan Pelle)
Trottier (Dan Pelle)

Whitworth’s first football practice was halfway over when sophomore quarterback Bryan Peterson rolled right and on the move fired a 35-yard rope that hit a receiver in stride.

Head coach John Tully turned to a few bystanders on the sideline with a did-you-see-that? grin on his face.

Peterson was good, very good, as a freshman last year, but Tully has seen enough to believe the former minor league baseball outfielder is trending toward a big sophomore season.

“I think people are going to be impressed with what they see this fall,” Tully said. “Last spring he was lights out. He’s in great shape. I think he can be a special player for us and he has other people around him that can make plays.

“He knows the system, he knows the offense, his throwing is spot-on and with his athleticism I think he can have a lot of fun.”

The 6-foot-3, 209-pound Peterson admits he wasn’t completely comfortable last season, though his statistics didn’t show it. He threw for 1,420 yards and 14 touchdowns with a 142.7 passer rating, but his grasp of the offense was a work in progress.

“I felt great, I knew I could throw,” Peterson said. “The question was making the reads, which was an adjustment. In high school I didn’t really feel comfortable making reads. It just takes time to develop.

“I was never to the point last year where I was comfortable with all the reads, but it got better as the season went on.”

Peterson credits quarterbacks coach Joel Clark, a standout quarterback for the Pirates from 2003-06, for helping him learn how to decipher opposing defenses. The process continues, but Peterson senses he’s made significant gains.

“In spring, it felt like the game was slower,” Peterson said. “I want to continue to improve and not take any days off.”

* * *

If you Google ‘Bryan Peterson and minor league stats’, the first items that pop up are about Bryan Petersen, who plays for the Miami Marlins. There are a few listings for Brian Peterson, a 10-year minor league catcher. Finally, there are details of Bryan Peterson’s three seasons in the Boston Red Sox organization.

Peterson committed to Washington State during his junior year at West Valley High, but opted to turn pro after being selected in the 11th round (362nd overall) by Boston in the 2008 draft.

He got off to a promising start, hitting .277 in rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League. A series of nagging injuries put a dent in Peterson’s playing time and his batting average. The West Valley High product knew what was in store when he was summoned to a meeting with Red Sox officials during 2011 spring training.

“They said I’d missed a lot of games and rosters were pretty full, we don’t really have a spot for you,” Peterson said. “They said, ‘If you’d like to keep playing we can help you out, with another team or an independent.’ I said, ‘I’m ready to move on.’ ”

Peterson returned home and was planning on “going to college, just being a student and preparing for a working life.” His dad, Mike, a former WSU receiver, brought up another possibility.

“We were shooting hoops and he said, ‘What do you think about playing football at Whitworth?’ ” Peterson said. “I was kind of nonchalant about it. He kept asking me about it and eventually it was, ‘Yeah, that would be cool.’ ”

After a few phone calls and meetings with Pirates coaches, Peterson joined the program. A few of Peterson’s highlight videos from his prep days convinced the staff to give Peterson a shot at quarterback.

Peterson eventually won the starting job and put together a solid freshman season.

“He just came in and played well and gained our trust,” said cornerback Paul Miller, who, like Peterson, started as a true freshman last season. “He’s just a great athlete so it was a smooth transition for him.”

Peterson was never too far away from football, even during his baseball career. He served as scout team quarterback for younger brother Mitchell’s West Valley team that took second in state in 2009. He tossed passes to his sister’s boyfriend, Eastern Washington University receiver Nick Lenoue, who ran routes against Mitchell, a safety on WSU’s football team.

“Even when I was playing baseball when fall rolled around I just got the fever for football,” Peterson said. “It didn’t leave me.”

Baseball hasn’t totally left him either. He wanted to join Whitworth’s team last spring but he’s ineligible because he was paid as a minor league player. “There’s been an appeal,” he said, “but it’s going to be hard because the rule seems pretty clear.”

* * *

The 22-year-old Peterson is in a good situation at Whitworth.

“I’ve had a very good feeling, really since I got here,” he said. “Everyone is so awesome and I’ve developed some really nice relationships with people. I love my classes and they’re very interesting.”

Peterson, who has a 3.7 GPA, is studying psychology, but he has a growing interest in the movie industry. He interned this summer in North by Northwest’s production office. He’s written screen plays for a feature film and short film.

“When I finished writing (the feature), I felt like it was a reflection of me as a raw writer/film maker, not really having any professional experience,” he said.

On the football field, Peterson acquired valuable experience last season and he’s ready to show what he’s learned when Whitworth opens the season against St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. on Saturday.

Sept. 1at Scholastica11:00 a.m.
Sept. 8at Whittier1 p.m.
Sept. 15at La Verne6
Sept. 22Chapman1
Sept. 29at Pacific (Ore.)1
Oct. 6Willamette1
Oct. 13at Linfield1:30
Nov. 3at Pacific Lutheran12:30
Nov. 10Lewis & Clark12:30
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