Amazing: Ex-Vol has another job

Marvin Westwestwords

Tennessee quarterbacks are seldom obscure or ambiguous or any of a dozen synonyms.


Peyton could be governor. Almost every distraction, even sprinkles on summer Sunday afternoons, was Jarrett Guarantano’s fault.

H is very definitely for Hendon Hooker and Heisman. Condredge, Heath Shuler and the Swamp Rat are the stuff of legends. Tee Martin has the national championship ring.

Fond are my recollections of former Vol quarterback Nathan Peterman, 28, and his unusual football career. Take it from me, he has courage and tenacity. He refuses to give up.

You don’t remember Nathan Peterman? How strange.

Nathan grew up in Fruit Cove, Florida. He was a Tim Tebow fan. He was also contradiction personified. A high school coaches’ organization named him the national scholar-athlete of 2011. Not so said 247Sports, he was No. 25 among quarterbacks. Rivals ranked him a four-star prospect and eighth among pro-style QBs.

The Peterman yarn does vary. His and Tebow’s prep accomplishments were similar. Their early lifestyles were similar. Tebow’s father, Bob, is a missionary; Peterman’s father, Chuck, is a senior pastor. Tebow’s mother, Pam, and Peterman’s mom, Dana, were in the same prayer group.

Both players have said they were blessed with exceptional ability for a higher purpose.

Both played at high schools in the Jacksonville area. In Tebow’s final season, he had 34 touchdowns and 3,442 yards; Peterman had 36 touchdowns and 2,932 yards. Their completion percentages were really close – 63.1 for Peterman and 62.8 for Tebow.

College success was very different. Tebow became all-world at Florida. Peterman’s best accomplishment at Tennessee was the SEC academic honor roll all three years. He might have been a football afterthought if he had somehow avoided disasters.

Derek Dooley, with help from Jim Chaney, recruited Peterman to be a Volunteer. Dooley got fired and new coach Butch Jones didn’t keep Chaney. The turnover could have been worse. New coach and young player knew each other. Butch, while at Cincinnati, had tried to recruit Peterman.

Butch mistreated Nathan in late September 2013. The coach didn’t like Justin Worley’s preparations for the Florida game and punished Peterman. Ninety minutes before kickoff, he announced that Nathan would make his debut as starting quarterback. He was nowhere near ready for Swamp hostility or the Gators’ outstanding defense, also hostile.

The quarterback became the story of the game for all the wrong reasons. The Vols fumbled on their second play when he and the running back got tangled up on a handoff. Three plays later, Peterman fumbled when sacked.

An errant throw was intercepted. Another pass slipped loose and fell into the hands of a defensive lineman standing in the right place. Never was the Gator Chomp more intimidating.

Nathan’s stats were 4-of-11 for five yards. He was dispatched to the bench. Florida fans chanted “MVP, MVP.”

Butch did Nathan another “favor” in October 2014. The second start of his career was against Alabama. That stay was shorter but more efficient – four passes, two completions, 10 yards, see you later.

Peterman earned a degree in communications in his three years at Tennessee. He transferred to Pitt – because Chaney was the Panthers’ offensive coordinator. Nate started 11 games in 2015. He threw for 27 touchdowns and lost seven interceptions. Chaney left for Georgia.

In 2016, Pitt was a 22-point underdog when the schedule said it absolutely had to show up at Clemson. Peterman completed 22 of 37 for 308 yards and five touchdowns in a monumental upset. He was national player of the week.

Pro scouts read the numbers and threw away previous reports. Peterman was the leader of the highest scoring offense in Pitt history, 40.9 points per game. Mel Kiper said he was most likely to play immediately in the NFL because of smarts. He worked at academics. He had added a master’s degree in business.

The quarterback was drafted in the fifth round by the Buffalo Bills. His stack of money came up to his knees. Tennessee insiders couldn’t believe eyes and ears. Butch had said …

The first thing Peterman did as a professional was struggle. He threw five interceptions in the first half of his first start. He had a passer rating of 0.0.

After that, he threw some more picks. After that, I received a message from my one friend in Buffalo: “Nathan Peterman is the statistically worst quarterback in NFL history.”

The Bills released him during the 2018 season. The Raiders picked him up. Quarterback guru Jon Gruden gave a positive assessment.

“He’s growing on me. He’s athletic. I know he’s had some nightmare performances but when you watch the film, you can see why. It’s not all his fault. He’s got some talent. He’s got some athleticism. He has some experience.”

Nathan did almost nothing for the Raiders. He was released after last season.

Miracle of miracles, that was not the end. A few weeks ago, the Chicago Bears signed him to do something – we know not what. We do know he again has the possibility of NFL checks – for a fifth or sixth season. That is a very good reason to keep on keeping on. There is another.

On a wall in the Peterman home is this message of faith: “With God, all things are possible.”

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

 

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