Former University of Washington cornerback Marcus Peters, tossed off the football squad in midseason by first-year head coach Chris Petersen, made an astonishing admission: In an interview with USA Today, Peters not only said he would have thrown himself off the team as Petersen did, he wouldn’t have waited as long to do it. That was only part of the Peters’ mea culpa.
“It was an avalanche ready to happen, man,” Peters told the newspaper in his first interview since Petersen ousted him. “It was going to collapse sooner or later. I don’t blame (Petersen) for anything. All I can blame is myself, because I made those decisions and I have to live with them.
“Now I’ll have to man up, and I’ve got to answer these questions in interviews, and all I can do is sit there and answer truthfully and honestly.”
Peters first drew Petersen’s ire during UW’s home opener against Eastern Washington University Sept. 6 at Husky Stadium. Apparently frustrated by a close game against a team with inferior talent, Peters head-butted an EWU receiver, drawing what Petersen later described as a “stupid” penalty.
When Peters went to the sideline after administering the head-butt, he refused to let assistant coaches calm him down and threw his helmet and gloves to the ground in an epic rant.
“I just embarrassed the whole University of Washington program on live television — me throwing, as my mama would say, a hissy fit,” said Peters, who was suspended for the next week’s game against Illinois. “I threw a hissy fit, man. I embarrassed my teammates, the coaching staff, the program, man. I wouldn’t have let me back on after that.”
But Petersen did, cognizant perhaps that Peters was embroiled in personal turmoil and was having difficulty adjusting to the transition from the Steve Sarkisian coaching tenure.
Peters had eight interceptions during his first two seasons at UW and, other than a failed drug test for marijuana during his 2011 redshirt year, never had a problem under Sarkisian’s command.
“Everything was going right on course for me to break out to be a next-level prospect,” Peters said. “Then, Sark left us (for USC). Sark left us, and for me, it was heartbreaking.”
Almost as soon as Sarkisian announced his intention to move to USC, Peters was late turning in a final exam for an African Studies course and drew a one-quarter suspension from interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo for the Fight Hunger Bowl against BYU. After Petersen came aboard, the academic issue led to a four-week ban from off-season training.
According to Peters, Petersen wanted him to become a team leader, but Peters wasn’t comfortable with that role. Then, just before fall camp, Peters learned that his girlfriend, Jayla Pittman, was pregnant. At the same time, Peters surfaced as a potential 2015 first-round draft pick.
“I was just immature with it, man,” Peters said. “My name’s getting talked about. A lot more people know who I am. I’m dealing with a lot of family, friends back home. I just didn’t take it right. I got big-headed with it. I didn’t focus and didn’t see it clearly of how I can do things, and it caused me to bump my head.”
Petersen dismissed Peters from the team Nov. 5 and refused to provide details (he still hasn’t). All he said was, “It’s never one thing. We’re not going to dismiss a guy because it’s one thing.”
According to USA Today, Petersen objected to the “body language” Peters displayed in team meetings and the music “Peters listened to.” Peters showed up late for team meetings before the Sept. 27 Stanford game, drawing a two-series suspension. Peters also missed a practice Nov. 4, the day before his dismissal, as he dealt with a traffic ticket for driving with a suspended license.
After Petersen jettisoned him, coach and player did not see one another until last week when Peters returned to Seattle to pay a $124 fine related to the traffic infraction. Petersen told Peters that he will allow the projected No. 1 pick to participate in Washington’s Pro Day April 2.
“I apologized to him (Petersen) once again, and I told him that I appreciate him even working with me,” Peters said. “They were working with me a lot, and I just – I didn’t get it. I didn’t see it in front of me that they were trying to help me out.
“To be honest, I would tell you today: Why wouldn’t you kick me off the team? He (Petersen) was trying to help me. He was teaching me some hard lessons at that time, and I just didn’t take it right.”
Peters, who after his dismissal didn’t watch the Huskies play until the Cactus Bowl, is speaking out now because he has to satisfy NFL teams that his character issues won’t be a problem if, as expected, he is selected in the first round along with two former teammates, Shaq Thompson and Danny Shelton.
“He’s owned up to a lot of things,” Peters’ father, Michael Peters, said. “He had a lot of time to think about it. Taking football away from him hurt him. Just coming home, getting settled back down, being around his kid – now he knows he’s playing for a whole lot more than just himself.”