“(I) lean on that when I lack motivation or I am complacent. That keeps me hungry and my drive alive.” - Brian Peters speaking of an email he sent to CFL teams nearly two years ago and still reads to this day.
An NFL locker room is full of 53 different stories and every player on the Houston Texans has his own personal tale regarding how he arrived to Houston. Special teams standout Brian Peters' story is a real life demonstration on what it takes to make it to the NFL. His background is filled with hard work, determination, and dues paid to get to his ultimate goal, which shows with his play on the field.
Peters started his track after being first team All-Big Ten for the Northwestern Wildcats, playing safety and showing his athletic ability with 12 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles, 23 pass breakups, and a school record 301 total tackles in 52 games.
His inclination to play physically put Peters on the radars of NFL teams when the draft came around and he knew that he would be a late round possibility or priority free agent. One NFL team informed Peters to stay by the phone, but as picks and time passed, it was clear that he was not getting a call.
Peters called that time during the draft, “upsetting” because he knew that he belonged in the NFL.
A group of Northwestern connections soon got on the phones and started calling around to the NFL trying to to land Peters a tryout before rookie mini-camps opened up. Peters had initial tryouts with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears, which went well, and it was in Tampa Bay that Peters received his first work at inside linebacker due to injuries to others at camp.
“Being in meeting rooms at Tampa, I knew I could play, ” said Peters. Watching his film in coverage, running next to top draft picks and holding his own only filled him with more determination.
Peters felt good about his time in Tampa. The organization asked him to put on weight and they would be in touch.
A call never came.
Peters, who was now in limbo with the 2012 NFL season in full swing, had to pass the time and stay ready for the call if it ever came. He started working as a personal trainer and did some demolition work for a hockey player who was a personal friend, but he kept the NFL in the back of his mind.
Over time, Peters knew he had to start playing and his agent mentioned the Arena Football League as an option. Late in the Arena season, he signed up for a tryout during the first week with the Iowa Barnstormers, which turned into a contract for the remainder of the season.
Peters loved that stint in the Arena League. “It was fun and I embraced opportunity. I played jack linebacker and you have to hit anything that moves.”
He vividly remembers slamming into the walls and “having fans spill beer on you” in the middle of games.
Peters always remembers stepping on the field and looking up in the rafters and seeing Kurt Warner’s retired Barnstormers jersey hanging from the rafters, keeping his hope alive that one day he could be in the NFL.
Peters said every day, looking at Warner’s jersey, that it provided “hope” to keep pushing.
From Des Moines, Iowa, Peters had a short stint with the Iowa Nighthawks of the UFL, but was soon released after the team started signing players from the NFL.
Peters took matters into his own hands and decided to email every general manager along with personnel executives in the CFL.
“I’m willing to work my tail off; I’m looking for an opportunity,” he would say in the email.
Only one team responded to the email and the reply was from the Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager, Brendan Taman.
Peters was signed to the practice squad in 2012 and was inked to a two-year deal heading into the 2013 season. It took time for Peters to see the field in 2013 but he ended up playing special teams the final 11 games of the season, registering 15 tackles for the team lead. That season ended with the Roughriders winning a Grey Cup and now that ring is in a safe place in Ohio with Peters' family. He knows that short stint in 2013 was a big step for his career.
“It was the coolest thing,” said Peters of winning the Grey Cup. “You learn to be grateful, especially when you see guys being cut from Arena teams, UFL, cut from the CFL. You see grown men crying seeing their dreams cut short.”
His special teams play put his foot in the door and was key for putting more work on film for NFL teams. It was one of the most memorable seasons in Roughriders history when Peters led the defense and special teams in tackles, the first time in franchise history that a player would lead in both and only the third time in CFL history that a player would accomplish the feat. Starting at will linebacker, he had 78 total tackles on defense plus 20 tackles on special teams.
It was then that the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles took notice of Peters' play in Canada and called after his contract was up, asking him to come work out.
With CFL free agency opening up and his workouts fresh in the minds of the Saints and Eagles, the clock started ticking on which direction Peters would turn, the CFL or wait out offers from NFL teams
“I was almost back in Canada last year (2015),” explained Peters. However, a call from Minnesota Vikings changed it all. A workout and a contract were soon offered and he was off to his new team.
In 2015, Peters put together a solid training camp and preseason for the Vikings, which landed him on the practice squad for the start of the season.
Going to a community service event with his Vikings shirt on, he received a phone call from his agent early one morning. It was the Texans calling about bringing him to the 53-man roster to help on special teams during the 2015 season. Peters, who has been waiting for this opportunity since he was passed by teams in the 2013 NFL Draft, knew it was time.
Peters agreed with his agent that it would be Houston and took an Uber from the event to his place, about an hour away, and jumped on a plane to get ready for the Texans week four opponent, the Atlanta Falcons.
Peters had some familiarity when he came to Houston. One of his good friends, John Simon, was already with the Texans. They worked out together in Ohio for three seasons and Peters was a groomsman in Simon’s wedding.
In a short amount of time, just like he did in the CFL, Peters led the Texans in special teams tackles with 17 in only 12 games. Now Peters is not looking back and is happy to call Houston home.
“There are good people here. I love the coaches and the people around the facility,” said Peters of the Texans organization.
“I just want to see how many years I can stay in the sun,” said Peters of his time in the NFL. “I just have to keep my head down and legs moving.”
It has been a winding road for Peters over the past three years. He is not letting the moment keep him from working for more but, like many, he is focused on the team's success more than his own.
“If there is any notoriety on special teams for me, it is about everyone doing their jobs,” said Peters. “At the end of the day, if we all function well and win, that is what it is all about.”
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