Peterson takes pride in developing talent
Ex-Eskimo trained many players in Monday’s all-star Senior Bowl
Kamau Peterson’s Playmaker U has been an ingrained part of Edmonton’s football community for seven years, but this week provided a full circle moment for the former Edmonton Eskimos receiver.
“My first kids that I dealt with are now in their draft year,” Peterson said on Friday morning from Toronto, where he’s working a camp with the York University Lions.
“Seeing Dexter Janke and Andrew Johnson, a kid that I’ve worked with … and before him it was Riley Richardson last year going through the (Canadian Football League’s) regional combine,” said Peterson, York’s associate offensive co-ordinator and receivers coach. “I was surprised at how much it affected me, just in terms of the pride swell.”
Janke was selected 44th overall by the Calgary Stampeders and Johnson was the Eskimos’ pick at No. 34 while Richardson is a receiver with the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Peterson’s football training academy started out with a single passing camp in 2008. Today he operates out of a 25,000-square-foot facility in Sherwood Park and, with the help of some of his former Eskimo teammates and other athletes with pro sports experience, is training kids who play football, basketball, hockey, soccer, rugby and baseball.
“We’ve grown quite a bit,” Peterson said. “Plus, with all of our high-performance adult fitness and speed camps and these type of things and now moving to do some more things in Toronto and partnering with York, there are more opportunities there as well.”
At age 36, the 11-year CFL veteran will feel some more pride this weekend when a slew of youngsters he’s trained take part in the 26th annual Senior Bowl high school football all-star game on holiday Monday in Calgary.
“I believe we’ve got close to 30 or 35 on both sides,” Peterson said of the game that pits northern Alberta’s best high schoolers against southern Alberta’s finest. “The last three or four years we’ve had as many as 40 over the two teams out of about 80 kids, which is kind of neat.”
Peterson would eventually like to extend his program’s reach across the country, targeting the Jane and Finch area of Toronto (already a basketball recruiting hotbed), B.C., Saskatchewan and Quebec.
“We’ll be moving and shaking for the next 10 years while I’ve still got the energy,” he said, laughing. “And then we’ll see what happens.”
South forms bulk of Alberta U-18 team
The Senior Bowl could serve as the break point for a balance of football talent in the province.
Football Alberta released its under-18 roster for July’s Football Canada Cup in Montreal. Of the 40 roster spots, only eight went to Edmonton-and-area players (extending north to Grande Prairie).
It’s not that southern Alberta has a distinct talent advantage, Football Alberta’s technical director Tim Enger explained. It’s about athletes in southern Alberta hitting their stride at the right time.
Without a high school spring league in Calgary, an independent bantam league has players on the field in March.
“Edmonton can still run spring camps and a lot of schools do two, three weeks in the spring, but they don’t fire it up until May,” Enger said. “When we’re running the beginning of our tryout camps in April and pick our team in the beginning of May, some of these Calgary kids have been playing for a month and a half already. When you come in competition-ready, it’s hard to compete against sometimes.”
The idea of year-round football might be appealing to some people, but that’s not the case with most coaches and provincial administrators.
“I keep telling kids how different it is these days compared to back in the day when I played high school football and we just played our seven games and went home,” Enger said.
“Football Canada is developing their long-term athlete development plan and … one of the big pushes that comes out of that is sports staying in their traditional season, but the genie has been out of the bottle for so long, it’s tough.
“If you’re an elite hockey player, you’re doing hockey 24/7/365 and other sports are following along. The bright side is we’re getting some darned good football players here.”
“One of the benefits I’ve been given was being afforded the luxury of being a high-level multi-sport athlete growing up and it’s one of the things I really advocate quite a bit,” Peterson said. “I don’t know if (kids) realize or if the parents or coaches that promote the specialization realize how much athleticism is being lost on kids that aren’t able or willing to go to multiple sports.
“Now that I’m evaluating and recruiting kids, that’s one of the things that I’m finding is missing. If push comes to shove, you’ve got two kids who are pretty even on the football field, I’m going to the kid who’s done more athletically who’s also playing basketball, who’s also playing soccer, because I know what that brings from an overall athletic standpoint as well from a character standpoint.”