Chris Petersen typically describes a player he wants on his University of Washington football team as an “OKG.”
Our Kind of Guy.
Star cornerback Marcus Peters on Thursday became the latest member of a handful of former Huskies associated with a pejorative four-letter acronym.
Never miss a local story.
Not Our Kind of Guy.
Peters’ dismissal from the team was surprising and yet inevitable. His skill as a smothering, ball-hawking defender is obvious, but his troubling history of insubordination convinced Petersen that the presumptive first-round NFL draft selection was expendable. Which is saying something, because if there’s anybody the Huskies need at this critical juncture of the season, it’s a presumptive first-round draft choice to anchor their inexperienced secondary.
Petersen was faced with an unusual predicament. Unlike wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow, booted off the team for bullying innocent bystanders celebrating the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory in February, Peters never was a problem off the field. He broke no laws, and broke no jaws.
Peters’ only issue, apparently, was controlling his volatile temper. He argued with coaches during practice and during games. He was prone to throwing the occasional tantrum that draws a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
We still don’t know much about Petersen, who regards privacy — be it his own, or his team’s — as the most sacred of civil rights.
But we know this: He would sooner take a barefooted one-mile walk over hot coals and shards of glass, than tolerate the antagonistic attitude of an exceptionally gifted athlete.
Unless Peters was as toxic a presence in the locker room as Percy Harvin reportedly was with the Seahawks, the jettisoning of a proven defensive playmaker — two days before UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley shows up at Husky Stadium — has no immediate benefits.
Long term? A different story. Petersen can walk into the homes of the high school kids he’s recruiting, look eye-to-eye at the parents, and make a very convincing case that he draws a line.
Elite players who need to be coddled, who need their coaches to forgive and forget on a rinse-repeat cycle, are not fit for a roster spot at the University of Washington.
“It’s all about the team,” Petersen can say. “If your son buys into that, we’ll always have his back. If not ...”
If not? Petersen will kick your son off the team, but he won’t reveal specific details about the dismissal to the public, and he won’t embarrass your son. He’ll even honor the terms of the scholarship, as he’s done with Peters, eligible to continue his college education at no cost.
Sweet deal. But if I’m Marcus Peters, I’m not concentrating on my college education. I’m putting school on hold and hiring an agent who’ll eventually be paid with some of my NFL signing-bonus money.
If I’m Marcus Peters, my next class will be on how to prepare for the ruthless interrogation process awaiting me at the pre-draft combine.
Peters will be asked why he couldn’t get along with his UW coaches, and why he was seen laughing on the bench while the Huskies were getting their clocks cleaned at Oregon, and why a junior cornerback worthy of All-Pac-12 Conference honors distinguished himself as a team nuisance instead of a team leader.
Put simply, he’ll need to grow up.
If Peters succeeds in the NFL, if he’s able to regard himself as part of the assembly rather than the crux of the assembly, his college coach will be due no sappy apologies.
A “thank you” will work just fine.