The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, October 18, 1993 - 7
Continued from page 1
safety play began to shine.
Peoples first played safety in his
senior season for the Lumberjacks,
and he made an impressive 53
tackles and snared eight
interceptions, returning two for
In his senior year, his reputation
on both offense-and defense had
grown enough to earn him
accolades from all over -
including first-team All-State
selection from the Detroit Free
Press and Dream Team selection
from the Detroit News. Recruitment
came from schools across the
country, including Michigan State,
Michigan, Ohio State, Florida,
Florida State, Auburn, Colorado
and Notre Dame. Peoples was
initially tempted by the call of the
Irish, but Lou Holtz's refusal to
sign Proposition 48 players ended
When Peoples resumed his
search, his eyes did not turn
immediately toward Ann Arbor.
Instead, he became interested in
another team with golden helmets
- Bill McCartney's Buffaloes. His
family, however, wasn't thrilled
with the choice.
"When I took my trip to
Colorado, I was very impressed,"
Peoples said. "I came back and I
was very excited about going to
Colorado. My mom wasn't too
"We had a little talk, weighed
my options, the pros and cons of me
going to Michigan or CU. It just
came to a point where my mom was
right. I trusted her opinion, and I
agreed, at that point of time, that it
was right for me to stay in-state."
Peoples settled on Michigan, a
logical selection considering his
family ties: his cousin, Calvin
O'Neal, was a two-time All-Big
Ten linebacker for Michigan in the
early 1970s. Further, the
Wolverines sought players like
Peoples for their new-look
defensive secondary, as the bend-
but-don't-break philosophy was
giving way to a blitzing, attacking
So in September of 1990,
Peoples came to Ann Arbor, and
started to wait his turn. For a player
used to weekly performance, it was
hard to sit.
"It was a long wait," Peoples
said, "but you still had to work.
Every day you had to do some
working out on different weights to
stay in shape."
While he couldn't practice with
the team,Peoples applied himself to
his weight-training. He increased
his weight from 208 pounds to 220,
and prepared for his chance to play
in the spring of 1991.
Peoples made a powerful spring
debut. He impressed the coaches
with his combination of size and
speed -4.46 seconds in the 40-
yard dash - and raised a few
eyebrows by requesting jersey No.
3 - last worn by two-time All-
American safety Tripp Welborne.
"It was open and nobody else
requested it," said defensive
backfield coach Bill Harris. "Shonte
believed he was a pretty good
player and he'd wear the number
and uphold that tradition."
"Coach Harris told me that No.
3 was worn by an All-American,"
Peoples explained. "And I said,
I'm going to be one, too.' He said,
'I hope so."'
While his play wasn't All-
American that year, he did have a
decent return to the gridiron,
especially considering his waiting
period. He played mostly on special
teams, working the cover units on
both kickoffs and punts, and his
defensive time was limited due to
the presence of fifth-year seniors
Otis Williams and David Ritter in
the Wolverine secondary.
Nevertheless, he did see some
"My role then was to be a team
player," Peoples said. "I was not
mature enough then to handle the
responsibilities of being a starter for
But that would change.
The 1992 season brought new
opportunities. Despite injuring his
shoulder and undergoing surgery in
the spring, Peoples returned to fall
practice in game-shape. Playing
with power, speed, and
determination, Peoples advanced
past senior Pat Maloney to the
starting spot on the depth chart.
No longer waiting his turn, he
would be expected to contribute.
His power, his speed, his
determination - all would be
demanded in defensive coverage
and on the blitz. The wait, truly,
"It was really a dose of reality
for myself," Peoples said. "I was
very aware of the opportunity that I
had. So at that point I took it very
Peoples was not alone in his new
role. With the graduation of
cornerback Lance Dottin, Peoples'
fellow junior Alfie Burch - the
one-time receiver - also had the
spotlight on him. Burch said that his
and Peoples' parallel development
naturally reflects their friendship.
"He's a good friend of mine.
SPORTS 6. *.PRFI
Name $t PepS
We've talked about a lot of things,
and gone through a lot of things
together," Burch said. "He's one
you can talk to off the field, and
he'll support you off the field as
well as on the field. The only way I
can say it is he's Shonte."
"Alfie and I have always been
working together since when I came
in," Peoples concurred. "We're
great friends: we work together, we
came up through the system
The year saw the emergence of
both of them. Before suffering a
season-ending foot injury in the
Indiana game, Burch starred as the
hard-hitting cornerback with speed
and an unforgettable attitude - the
character who spoke brashly about
And Peoples, he became the
Mack Truck. Four times he
recorded over five tackles, and
against Ohio State, he notched a
career-high 13, including 10 solo
and one for a loss.
While he only recorded two
sacks on the year, he was a fixture
in opposing backfields. Both sacks
came against Houston, and they
developed from safety blitzes where
Peoples charged unchecked around
end and dropped Cougar
quarterback Jimmy Klingler before
he had a chance to set up.
"My quickness is important
there," Peoples said. "I have a very
fast start, very aggressive. When
you have that speed, you got the
corner (of the line into the
Peoples finished the season in'
style. Midway through the fourth
quarter of the Rose Bowl and with
the score knotted at 31, Michigan
twice was called for pass
interference giving Washington a
first-and-goal on the Wolverine 5-
Peoples and Chris Hutchinson
stopped Husky quarterback on a
Then Peoples stuffed Napoleon
Kaufman on a dive for no-gain.
Third down saw Kaufman get
the ball again, this time on a pitch-
Whoomp! - there Peoples was,
dropping Kaufman for a one-yard
loss and forcing Washington to
attempt a field goal. Travis
Hanson's kick sailed wide right on
"He has an overall hunger to
make the big play," Burch said.
"And he has the hunger to make big
hits. That (hunger) gets you to the
ball that much faster, or to the
quarterback, or wherever you have
to go - he's going to be there."
The post-season statistics had
Peoples third on the team with 72
tackles, and he was named All-Big
Ten first team by the coaches and
honorable mention by the media.
All-Big Ten is one thing. But
Peoples could have hardly been
prepared for the accolades that
would come his way prior to this
The preseason publications
appeared, and Peoples, the former
Proposition 48 athlete who had to
work his way up through special
teams and wait behind veterans,
found his name splashed all over
Sports Illustrated called him
"one of the best defensive backs in
the country." The Sporting News
ranked him as the nation's third-
best safety. NCAA Preview had him
sixth, and said he and fellow
defensive back Ty Law formed
"clearly the nation's best secondary
combination." Street & Smith's
awarded him second-team All-
And Playboy went all the way.
Listing him as a first-team All-
American, the magazine flew
Peoples out to Arizona for an
interview and photo session, where
he joined a host of other elite
"That was like a who's who, and
it was a great opportunity to be up
there," Peoples said. "I was
impressed by the amount of respect
that people gave you. I really felt
like somebody. These people are
the cream of the crop, and I felt
honored (to be included)."
Unfortunately for Peoples, and
much like the rest of the team, the
1993 campaign has brought mixed
results for him. Peoples had six
tackles and an interception in the
season opener against Washington
State, and posted impressive
numbers (12 tackles, three for a
loss) against Notre Dame. Yet he
struggled in the first half against the
Irish, and most of his takedowns
came in the second half, after Notre
Dame had already posted 24 points.
Against Houston, his statistics
(six tackles, one for a loss) don't
tell the entire story. Due to
Michigan's injury situation at
linebacker, Peoples spent much of
the game filling in, and not in his
regular safety position.
"It feels very different," Peoples
said. "It is a lot more physical than
safety. You have to get ready to go
every play because some guy who
weighs 300 pounds is coming to get
While he was limited to three
tackles in the Michigan State
debacle, Peoples bounced back
against Penn State with seven
tackles and an interception.
However, the numbers don't tell
you all you need to know about -
Peoples. Most of all, they don't
show you his determination, a
determination that has grown as he
has advanced through the program
and one that manifests itself in
unique ways. For instance, consider
his favorite part about playing
safety for the Wolverines.
"The best part of being a safety
is the pressure," Peoples said.
"There's so much pressure on you
because you're the last line of
defense. The pressure is there to get
it done and make the play. You
The pressure? That's the good
"Yeah, I think it takes a special
kind of effort being a defensive
back," Peoples said. "It takes an
Attitude, determination -
"spirit," as Harris called it - Burch
had one word for it: heart.
"Shonte plays with a lot of heart
out there. To go with his great size
out there, and his speed, that just
makes him that much faster, and
better, to make the big play."
And Welborne said it all adds up
to fantastic success.
"Shonte's done my number
proud," Welborne said. "He's put it
on and he's come into his own. He
went out and he played with a
vengeance, and I'm just proud of
everything he's done, and it's well
deserved everything he's got, all the
All of this leads to the inevitable
questions of not whether Peoples
will be drafted by an NFL team, but
how high, and by which one.
Peoples speculated that he
would be a late first-round pick, and
said his teams of choice are the
Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles
Raiders, Los Angeles Rams and the
Of course, there's a reason why
Peoples included the Falcons, and
in comes in the body of another
determined and talented defensive
back: the incomparable Deion
"I'd love to play with Deion,"
Peoples said, adding that his
sentiments remained despite
Sanders' knack for stirring
controversy. The reason?
"I love playing with the best,"
he said, "and I consider him as
being one of the best corners in the
league. I'd love to be part of a team
with the best players."
Jim Brandstatter, an analyst for
the Michigan radio network, said it
was "hard to say" how Peoples
would fare in the draft.
"A lot of it depends on what he
does in the combines - speed-
wise, running the 40, things like
that," he said. "If Shonte comes on
and has a good rest of the season,
where he plays really well, he could
go somewhere between third and
sixth round, but I even hate to say
"The NFL draft is so fickle.
There are very few 'can't misses.
Look at (Detroit Lions quarterback)
Andre Ware. There's a guy who
was supposedly a 'can't miss,' but
hasn't gotten it done yet. The NFL
is so fickle that you just don't know
how it will turn out. I think he will
be drafted, and will do very well,
but it's so speculative at this point."
While acknowledging the
uncertainties of the draft, Welborne
said he had confidence that Peoples
would be "one of the higher picks."
But the two-time All-American
whose career with the Minnesota
Vikings was shortened by injury
emphasized that, unless Peoples
suffers a similar fate, the real payoff
comes not in next April's draft, but
in the years ahead.
"He'll be an impact player,"
Welborne said. "He's a superior
athlete to many guys in the NFL,
and when he comes in he'll be a
great player. All he has to do is
learn the ropes, and then he'll be
ready. He'll be there a long time."
But before we get too far ahead
of ourselves, remember that five
games remain in the regular season,
plus a bowl game. Peoples has a
plan on how he'd like to conclude
his Michigan career. Peoples set the
place as the Rose Bowl, a distinct
possibility with Saturday's results.
"It's the fourth quarter," he said,
"and we're down by three points.
Their quarterback drops back. He
throws a perfect pass, but I've got it
covered. I pick it off, and run it in
for the game-winning touchdown."
Such a scenario may seem
unlikely. But if Peoples, through his
ability and determination, can make
it happen ...
More power to him.
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