Peters Conversion Highlights USA Potential to the World
Monday Aug 3, 2009 in Elite Level Rugby USA 7s
USA 7s player and former NFL-er Leonard Peters got his first taste of rugby fame after appearing on the IRB’s radio show Total Rugby.
Peters, who was a huge star at the University of Hawaii before stints with the New York Jets and the Chicago Bears, is now playing 7s with Aspen and just returned from representing the USA at the World Games.
Peters was born in American Samoa and knew about rugby from an early age, but mainly watching his father play. Leonard was channeled to football, where as a defensive back he garnered a reputation as one of the biggest hitters in the college game.
Brought back, in a way, to rugby through former NFL player and Aspen 7s coach Andy Katoa, Peters has another shot at sports fame. His presence on the USA team electrified the world audience (hence the Total Rugby interview) because they know the number of American athletes who could make an impact in rugby is huge.
"First of all I was really grateful - for any athlete trying to cross over to any sport it is very hard, no matter which sport, but I was happy that [USA] coach Al [Caravelli] took me under his wing, taught me the sport and it's been going great for me," said Peters. "Being an athlete helped a lot because obviously I could already run, jump, catch the ball, do all of that. It was learning the rules that was hard.”
Meanwhile coaches have said the key to Peters isn’t just his athleticism, but his ability to pass. It’s a tough skill to learn out of the blue, the rugby pass, but Peters took to it quickly.
In fact, at the World Games, one overseas coach asked Caravelli who his football player was.
"I pointed him out and the coach said 'no, the guy who just started playing rugby a few weeks ago,'" Caravelli recalled. "I said, that's the guy. He couldn't believe it. Peters fit in so well."
Tougher to adjust to was the running.
"I don't think I was prepared for all the running in sevens," admitted Peters. "The conditioning was the biggest part for me coming over from football. In football you run around for nine seconds and then you can rest for 45, whereas in rugby they told me 'we have to play for seven minutes', and I said 'seven minutes? I can play for seven minutes.’”
Within the first minute he was looking to sub out he was so tired.
“I wasn't prepared for that, but I've got used to it now,” Peters said.
What also surprised him was the sense of camaraderie. Peters said the Chinese Taipei crowd at the World Games cheered for the USA, even when they played the home team. He also noted that other members of the USA team camp helped each other, rather than looked on the camp as simply a competition for places.
"I was thinking that nobody was going to help me because you're competing for a spot on the team, but my eyes were really opened by how the guys would help me, teach me how to run angles and the plays,” Peters said. "I was really drawn to the camaraderie on the team, really pleased that happened and I'm 100 percent into rugby now."
Playing in the World Games showed Peters what a world game rugby is.
"That was the one thing that really got me psyched into rugby. In the NFL you play other states in the USA, not other countries, but rugby is on a global scale,” he said. "You basically compete against the best athletes in the world and that really opened my eyes as to how many athletes are out there.
"The people in the States haven't really caught on to rugby yet, not because they don't think it's a great sport, but because they don't know the rules, and I think if we get the bid to go into the Olympic Games it would send it over the edge.”
- Alex Goff with IRB Reports