Peters in pain is still Warriors' big gain
The clacking cartilage in Leonard Peters' aching rib cage was held together by a swath of elastic bandage and covered in a plastic rib pad tucked under jersey No. 42.
But the heart of the University of Hawai'i's senior free safety and, thus its defense, was on display for all to see at Aloha Stadium last night.
If there were any questions about how the Warriors would handle Nevada-Las Vegas' spread option offense, they were answered not long after Peters trotted onto the field with a pained grimace and unrelenting determination.
Peters' unyielding presence and the defense's rock-ribbed domination were announced in calling card fashion shortly thereafter in the 42-13 home-opening victory over the Rebels.
Peters was a leaping, diving factor in breaking up three of the Rebels' first seven passes, throwing himself into his role as the last line of the Warriors' defense and setting a four-quarter tone for UH's most dominant effort of the past 11 games.
"He was just amazing — even for Leonard," assistant coach Rich Miano marveled. "I don't know if people realize just how remarkable he is."
By the time Peters returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown 29 seconds into third quarter, the assembled 28,173 surely had a notion.
By then it was 35-0 and this game was long over, even if Peters' night wasn't.
"We tried to get Leonard out of the game, but he wasn't going," Miano said. "He said he wasn't going if the others weren't coming out. That's the kind of kid he is."
Indeed, the coaches didn't know he has busted up his ribs two weeks ago at Alabama until afterward because he neither said anything nor let on.
"He made it look like he was winded," Miano said.
So, last night quarterback Colt Brennan said, "I told him, 'I don't mind you playing, just don't go crazy like you can be.' He's a madman out there. I was just telling him to preserve those ribs. But he was still a little bit crazy and, obviously, that was a good thing for us because he was flying around, being himself."
Even when defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville finally prevailed upon Peters to leave the game, he hardly took it easy.
Instead, he turned cheerleader, high fiving the defense after each series, striding up and down the length of the bench area.
Sometimes he would clutch his side — and smile.
"Oh, man, it was hurtin'; it was poppin' out (during the game), but a lot of guys are playing hurt, so as long as they're playing, I'm playing," Peters said.
Indeed, he hadn't come back for a sixth season, wading through months of NCAA limbo and medical exemption red tape to take a seat on the bench.
"If the whistle blows, I'm playing 'til they carry me out," became the Peters mantra.
When he picked off Rocky Hinds' pass in the third quarter, Peters said, "I thought about pitching it off (to a teammate). I mean, man, I was having trouble breathing and my ribs were aching. But the rest of the boys on the defense were throwing blocks for me and I just had to take it back then."
Not for the first time last night did Brennan and his teammates marvel at No. 42.
"I think his ribs were hurting and, once he caught that touchdown, they weren't hurting quite as much anymore," Brennan said. "It looked like he was smiling."
Peters' ribs only hurt when he smiled last night, which is to say they hurt a bunch.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 525-8044.