CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The music blares across Navy Fields during North Carolina football practice, and it’s not uncommon to see Tar Heels dancing to the beat. Whether it’s cornerback Des Lawrence or wide receivers Mack Hollins or Ryan Switzer, UNC has a long list of players with happy feet.
Normally the dance craze is reserved for the skill players, although if you look closely this preseason, you’ll see one 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman joining in.
“If you pay attention to me, you’ll see me dancing a lot of times,” senior left guard Caleb Peterson said after practice on Thursday. “It’s not a bunch, but I’ll be dancing a little bit on the field when we’re getting ready to call the play. I may even sing a little bit, too.”
Peterson’s moves baffle head coach Larry Fedora, who says he wouldn’t consider dancing if he had the size and frame of an offensive lineman.
“Those guys are 300 pounds,” Fedora said. “They’re saving their energy; they don’t want to waste it dancing. I wouldn’t if I was that big.”
For Peterson, his dancing is not for a lack of seriousness, but rather a physical expression of how he perceives the game of football as a whole. If anything, his moves are only beneficial to his play on the field.
“People kind of hate me because I’m like that, but I have good practices when I have fun,” he said. “A lot of people treat football like a job, but I feel like that’s the wrong way to view it. Football is nothing more than a game. I feel like it should be treated as a game and you should have fun with it. When I’m having fun, that’s when I’ll do good.”
Peterson has been having fun throughout his four years in a Tar Heel uniform alongside of best friend and starting right tackle Jon Heck. If both linemen stay healthy this season, they will each have a chance to break the current UNC career starts record of 49, which is held by former offensive tackle James Hurst.
“That’s really special and that means a lot to us,” Peterson said. “We were talking about that the other day… To have that number of starts is a very rare thing. It means a lot to me because I came to UNC wanting to maximize my playing time. I didn’t want to be a guy who only starts his senior year. I wanted to start immediately.”
Peterson earned freshman All-American honors in 2013, although that rookie season is in the distant past. As a senior leader on the offensive line, Peterson often thinks back to his first year at UNC and realizes that he’s no longer looking up, but being looked up to.
“When I was a freshman, it was a whirlwind when you’ve never done it before,” he said. “I was lucky enough to have Russell Bodine on my right and James Hurst on my left. From my testimony I can say that it means a lot as a younger player to have veterans around you.”
Ever since his freshman year, Peterson has paid close attention to the offensive line’s senior leaders, knowing that one day he would be where they are. He assessed everything they did to help prepare himself for this season.
“I’ve gotten to watch a couple groups of leaders go before me and learn from their mistakes and their leadership flaws, but also gain the positive things I watched them do and use those,” he said.
The burden of leadership doesn’t worry Peterson, though. He says he finds solace in the maturity of his team, trusting that everyone will do their job in order to help the team succeed. The pieces are all in place for a successful season, and the lineman says he plans to have as much fun as possible.
With the trust he has in his teammates, Peterson’s biggest worry heading into 2016 may be what song he should sing in the huddle.