"It's been kind of a four-month sabbatical out in the desert with (Arizona coach) Mike Stoops," Peterson said. "But there is a lot ahead to work for."
Last week, Peterson was named by OSU head coach Jim Tressel to replace tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Bill Conley, who announced his resignation from the staff on April 1. Ironically, Conley was the head coach at Middletown High School when Peterson was a young offensive lineman for the Middies.
"John is a Buckeye," Tressel said. "When you lose a guy like Bill Conley, you lose a guy whose heart and soul is at Ohio State. This has been his life. How can you replace that type of emotion and that type of love and emotion for the program? You see a John Peterson, who brings all of that -- maybe not to the same degree as a Bill Conley because he's not as much of a veteran, but John Peterson is also an outstanding coach.
"Look at his track record and look at where he has been. We were fortunate to be able to get him. He just left Arizona, which is a great program and a great situation. But that shows you the depth of his love for Ohio State. We are very fortunate to have him back at home.
"I can remember I was recruiting Middletown and we were recruiting Cris Carter and John was just a youngster. I've known him that long. It's fun to watch his progress."
Peterson finished his playing career at OSU as a starting guard in 1990. He then spent two seasons each as a graduate assistant at Cincinnati and at OSU before working four years as a full-time assistant at Akron and the last five seasons at Miami (Ohio). When Mike Stoops took the Arizona job this past off-season, he asked Peterson to join him there.
But when OSU inquired about his services, Peterson quickly decided the time was right to come back to his home state. He joined the team late this week as he continues to make the transition. Conley is working as a volunteer while Peterson spends the last few days of spring practice getting acquainted with his players.
Here are excerpts from an interview we conducted with Peterson after Saturday's jersey scrimmage:
Q. Your background, with four years at Akron and five years at Miami, you should be well acquainted with everybody here in the state. Do you feel that way?
Peterson: No question. I was born and raised in Ohio. My whole career has been here in Ohio. I definitely have a familiarity with the state of Ohio and how important high school football is and how important the high school coaches are.
Q. When you heard that Coach Conley was leaving, did a bell go off and say, `That might be my next job' or was it when they called?
Peterson: "It was a combination of both. I was fortunate to be in the situation I was in out in Arizona with Mike Stoops. The timing was … there's never a right time, but things work out for reasons and I had an opportunity to come back home."
Q. Talk about coming back home. This building (the Woody Hayes Athletic Center) was here when you left and you have Ohio Stadium and the tradition and everything …
Peterson: "When I first got to Ohio State in 1986 as a player, we were down in the Ernie Biggs facility. I was part of the transition into this new facility and it is still as good as ever."
Q. Recruiting the state of Ohio and the job Bill Conley did here and the machinery they had in place the last few years, do you have any idea how you're going to keep that going?
Peterson: "We haven't sat down. I haven't with Coach Tressel yet. But I know Coach Tressel has hired great coaches who are great people. When you have the kind of product that Ohio State has and great coaches recruiting, you are going to attract great players."
Q. John, when did you get into town?
Peterson: "I got here a couple days ago. I've been in transition with my house and family. We're pretty transient. We're trying to get settled here pretty soon."
Q. Have you begun working here? Are you in the swing of things?
Peterson: "I was in the swing of things today. Coach Conley and I, our relationship is so close. He's one guy he'll be retired, but I'll have a direct line to him."
Q. Will coaching the tight ends be a challenge for you? You played on the line and have coached mostly on the line.
Peterson: "The way Coach Tressel has his staff right now with the receivers coach, and Coach Daniels with the quarterbacks, we'll be able to go back and forth with the run game and the passing game. But professionally, I think this can only help me in the future in learning the passing game more and the whole concept that the offense learns."
Q. How did the process go? Did Coach Tressel call and say, `John, we'd like to talk to you about this'?
Peterson: "We did it the right way. When it happened, I spoke with an assistant coach (at OSU). I told Coach Stoops there was an inquiry on Ohio State's end. You can't say enough about the Stoops family. They are a first-class football family. But they are also Ohio guys. They understand that if there's one place in the country that a coach would leave at that stage of spring practice, there's only one place he would go -- and that's Ohio State."