Football: Peterson forgoes D-I interest for mission work
The most prolific rusher in Douglas High School history will be taking his talents away from the gridiron next year.
Conner Peterson, the 2012 Sierra League Co-Player of the Year, first-team All-Region and second-team All-State running back, recently announced his decision to pursue a unique, albeit familiar, path for his post-high school plans.
Shortly after graduation this spring, the 5-11, 219-pound running back will embark on a two-year mission with the Mormon church. In doing so, Peterson passed on Division I football interest, most notably just up the road from Minden at the University of Nevada.
“It was a hard decision but it was an easy choice,” Peterson said. “I knew what I was going to choose it right from the get-go. It’s difficult to think about what I am giving up, but it’s a case where I’m just going to put my dreams on hold for right now.”
Peterson rushed for 1,473 yards and 13 touchdowns this past season, in addition to catching 33 passes for 442 yards and three touchdowns, and playing the majority of Douglas’ defensive downs at middle linebacker.
The three-year starter obliterated the school records for career rushing yards (perviously 2,577) and career touchdowns (previously 32), finishing with 3,883 and 42 respectively.
For his career, he averaged nearly 6.09 yards per carry.
He fielded interest from schools like San Diego State and Idaho, but received the most attention from Nevada, who invited him for a visit in November when the Wolf Pack hosted Boise State.
Peterson said he had hoped he would be able to catch on with a school, practice with the team for a year and then depart for his mission before returning to complete his career, much like his older brother – Jake – was able to do as a linebacker at the University of Pennsylvania.
Such an offer didn’t materialize for Conner at the Division I level.
“It’s a big commitment for a Division I school, because that scholarship is unavailable the entire time you’re away,” Peterson said.
Instead, he is set to leave directly after graduation. He said having the example of his older brothers (Aside from Jake, Brock Peterson was a standout running back at Douglas who left Linfield College for his mission in Siberia) helped in his decision, but that he had desired to take this course from the outset.
“I had the desire to do this myself,” Peterson said. “But, it was nice having my brothers set that example just as an encouragement in making the decision.”
Peterson, a bruising runner with deceptive speed, said his plan is to maintain his conditioning as much as possible while he is away and then take a crack at college football.
“Missionaries are required to work out every day,” Peterson said. “So there will be chances to keep my strength up. Then I get one free day a week where I can get in workouts. I don’t know where I will be yet. There may not be weights where I end up, so it might be a matter of finding a log or something and getting my work done that way.”
He said coaches from San Diego State and San Jose State said he should get in touch when he returns.
“There’s a chance they’d want to look at me then, see if I am still in shape,” Peterson said. “I’ll work toward that and see if I can land a scholarship then.”
Peterson’s father, Clay –who played quarterback for Douglas and later defensive end for BYU – said his hope is that a college coach will take a chance on the intangibles Conner could bring back.
“He’ll be a 21-year-old freshman,” Clay Peterson said. “Hopefully coaches will be able to see a maturity there. Hopefully someone takes a flier on him and they end up getting a bargain.”
National Signing Day, which is Wednesday, will be quiet across Carson Valley, despite Douglas producing a trio of the most potent offensive weapons in school history this season.
Quarterback Michael Nolting, who broke every school passing mark during his two years at the helm of the Tiger offense, is fielding interest from a number of NCAA Division II and III schools.
The 5-11, 180-pound senior threw for 2,504 yards and 23 touchdowns while completing 72 percent of his passes this season. He completed his career having completed 399 passes for 5,276 yards and 48 touchdowns. He also rushed for 941 yards and 13 touchdowns with an average of 4.3 yards per carry.
Presently, Nolting said Division II Black Hills State in South Dakota is at the front of the pack but that a number of Division III coaches have contacted him in the last week, including Occidental, Puget Sound, Montana Western and Whitworth in Spokane, Wa.
“This is just the start of their recruiting period,” Nolting said. “They kind of wait to see what players are still available as Signing Day approaches and then they start making contacts.
“I’ve been hearing from a new school about every two days. It’s been a process of researching these schools and seeing where they are and what they are about. My goal is to play at the highest level that is available to me and do my best there.”
So far, the interest has been exclusively for him to play quarterback, although he did start admirably as a free safety for the Tigers this past season.
Douglas wide receiver Dusty Fisher, who set single season school marks in receiving yardage (1,167), catches (65) and touchdown catches (15) has contacted some Division I programs about walking on next season, but will have to wait until after signing day to see if an invitation materializes.
At 6-2, 173 pounds with solid speed and good hands, the first-team all-state selection will likely find a spot to play. It will just be a matter of where.
Douglas placekicker Connor Greth, who was 3-for-3 on field goals as a senior and booted a game-winning 26 yarder against Carson, will attend Montana Western next year.
Douglas coach Ernie Monfiletto said he has a number of players attempting to play at the junior college level next year as well, although nothing has been set with them yet.