Former UF linebacker Peterson joins Florida's staff
Published: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 at 6:39 p.m.
Mike Peterson is back home in Alachua County — for now.
The former Florida and NFL linebacker, who was an all-state player at Sante Fe High, has returned to UF to finish the final two classes he needs for his undergraduate degree in sociology.
Peterson was a first-team All-American in college and won two SEC titles and a national championship with the Gators from 1995-98. He played for the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons during his 14-year NFL career.
He's ready to fulfill another childhood dream in December.
“You have two dreams as a kid, not in any particular order, but play professional sports and get a degree,” Peterson said. “I'm thrilled just to be able to accomplish the latter.”
While in school this fall, he will also be jump-starting his coaching career now that his playing days are coming to an end. Peterson has joined coach Will Muschamp's staff as an undergraduate student assistant.
“If I could've put it on paper or dreamed about it,” he said, “this definitely would've been the place I want to get my coaching career started. I played here. I grew up here. I was able to come back and play close to here in my professional career, so I think the kids are accepting of me and listen to what I have to say a little more because I've sat in those same seats they're sitting in right now.”
Peterson's responsibilities are to help develop the underclassman linebackers on the roster.
“I try to teach my guys how to go about your business every day. All the knowledge that I have or I've learned over the years, just try to pass that along to the younger guys,” he said.
“Some of the things I'm going to be able to tell them (are) techniques, how to play this, what to look for on this play, things that you can use in this system but that you can take forever. You can only play cover 2 and cover 3 so many ways. The Xs and the Os don't change. The terminology changes, but the techniques and the way you play the game, that'll never change.”
Peterson hasn't officially retired from the NFL but plans to this month. He said if a team calls him within the next week, he will have a difficult decision to make. Once Florida's season starts, however, there's no turning back.
“I'm a loyal guy, a committed guy, and right now, I've got a commitment to the team here,” he said. “So, the longer this process goes on, it's going to be harder for me to go back. But I think within the next couple weeks or so, I will definitely make an announcement. I just want to make sure that door is closed all the way before I jump into something else.”
Peterson said he has always wanted to get into coaching and hopes to work his way up the college and professional ranks.
“One day I want to sit in and be able to pick the guys out,” he said. “Now the dream is to form my own team.”
For the time being, Peterson is happy to be around his family and community on a regular basis. He has held annual football camps and fun days in Alachua County over the past decade through his charity, the Mike Peterson Foundation.
“I'm trying to be a little more involved (this year), as involved as I can,” he said. “It's still home to me regardless of where I've been or where I'm going.”