The 2002 NFL Draft was one of the best the Philadelphia Eagles have ever had. But it wasn’t because of their fourth-round pick Scott Peters — an offensive guard out of Arizona State.
No, Peters did not live up to his billing as a prospect and was overshadowed in his draft class by Eagles’ greats such as first-rounder Lito Sheppard, second-rounders Michael Lewis and Sheldon Brown, and third-rounder Brian Westbrook. But as NBC Sports Philadelphia recently reported, Peters has made up for a lackluster NFL playing career by taking an interesting and unorthodox journey away from and back to the league — even becoming a world champion along the way.
Peters remained on the Eagles’ roster throughout his rookie season but he was inactive for all but two games. Those games were early in the season against the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, and Peters didn’t see the field in either.
Following training camp the very next year (2003), Philadelphia released Peters and he would eventually be picked up by the New York Giants. He played in seven games for New York that year but that would be his only season with the Giants. Peters then bounced around the league, landing on offseason rosters or practice squads for the San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, and Arizona Cardinals. He retired in 2009 without having played a regular-season snap since his time in New York.
But in 2006, while he was with the Panthers, Peters underwent ankle surgery that was initially considered to be a minor procedure. However, when he awoke from his surgery, doctors informed Peters that the injury was far more significant than expected and they suggested that he should retire from the NFL.
Peters wouldn’t have it. He was not ready to give up on his dream of succeeding as a professional football player. So he began training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and other forms of mixed martial arts in order to rebuild strength and mobility in his ankle. His love for MMA grew but he didn’t have a decent facility to train at and hone his skills. That prompted Peters to open his own gym. So in 2008, he opened The Lion’s Den MMA Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona. It would quickly become Arizona’s largest MMA gym with a youth jiu-jitsu program that grew to exceed even the well-established Gracie Jiu-Jitsu program.
While MMA training helped Peters’ injury and enabled him to return to the NFL for a few more seasons, he ultimately decided to retire in 2009 and follow another passion. Peters began competing in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and earned himself two world championships in submission grappling.
His style and quick success caught the eyes of many, including former UFC champions Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez, both of whom hired Peters to help in their training camps for UFC fights.
Peters’ success outside of the NFL didn’t stop there. He also founded a program called Safe Football, which has since morphed into Tip of the Spear. The mission of Peters’ program is to teach youth, high school, and college football programs how to use certain principles of martial arts to avoid concussions while competing on the gridiron.
According to the organization’s website:
“Tip of the Spear is a Comprehensive Instructional Training & Skill Development program for contact in football (Blocking, Defeating Blocks and Tackling). The Tip of the Spear system provides a sustainable solution to football’s concussion crisis, by empowering players to take the head out of contact without compromising the physical nature of football.”
And while Peters has been out of competing in organized football for the past 11 years, that all changed Feb. 13 when he was hired by the Cleveland Browns to be their assistant offensive line coach. Browns’ head coach Kevin Stefanski said on his team’s website that Peters’ background in martial arts is one of the reasons Cleveland hired him.
“I think his unique experience as a technician and how he comes at it from a different angle, from a Jiu-Jitsu angle, really is a unique way to coach the players in terms of hand placement and hip movement,” Stefanski said.
So while Peters may be considered a bust as an NFL player, he has certainly had plenty of success off the field. He’ll now get a second chance to make an impact on professional football, using the virtues he learned through MMA training to help guide him along the way.