Bethel Royals Erik Peterson Providing Encore to MVP Season
Often times you will hear when a person has done something incredibly well, others will ask, “What will you do for an encore?” That is a question that Bethel Royals quarterback Erik Peterson must have heard a lot following his amazing 2013 MVP Campaign. The Royals QB was first in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) in passing yards, second in touchdown passes with 24, while only throwing seven interceptions. While those numbers are impressive on their own, the 70.2 percent completion percentage was just ridiculously good, and Peterson led his team to an undefeated season and a conference title. With such an amazing season under his belt it was easy to ask the question, “What would he do for an encore?”
Entering 2014 the Bethel Royals quarterback knew he was going to be facing a new challenge. All five of his primary receivers from the 2013 season graduated, meaning he was going to have to build some chemistry with a whole new group, and he was going to have to do it rather quickly. This was a team that was still the top in the conference, and if they were going to stay that way they needed their MVP quarterback to deliver another big season. “I knew that there was going to be some new challenges this season, and so the first thing we had to do was work on our timing,” Peterson explains. “We got up at six o’clock in the morning on Wednesdays during the summer to work on improving the chemistry between us. They knew they were going to have to step up and they were great in how they did that.”
Peterson’s Coach, Steve Johnson, described the senior as a very “poised young man with incredible leadership skills.” That poise has been challenged this season as he entered the campaign knowing there was a clear target on this back, not just because his team was the MIAC conference champions, but also because he entered the season as the reigning MVP. “I know that this season had different challenges, and so it requires that I put aside what I have done before, that is in the past, and focus on what I can do now. I understand that teams want to knock us off, but to me last season is over. My focus is on now and how I do today.”
How he is now is just as special as he was last season. The senior quarterback has put up numbers that have rivaled his stats from last season, throwing for 1460 yards in seven games with 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions. His completion percentage has been outstanding again at 65.2 percent, but it is those low interception numbers that are so impressive. He has now played in 19 games over the last two seasons with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His 3.3 touchdown to interception ratio is one of the things that makes him so special. He isn’t one to make the big mistake that costs his team games. “I try to make sure I am careful with my passes and where I throw. It starts with the coaches making great game plans and then I just have to follow that plan and stay focused.”
What makes Erik Peterson so special is that poise. He loses his five top receivers from the previous season, still throws 16 touchdowns in seven games. Teams want to do all they can to knock the conference champs off their perch, completes 65 percent of his passes. They lose a tough game on the road at Division-III powerhouse Wartburg, Peterson remains poised and leads his team to six straight wins. The adversity comes but the QB remains cold as ice.
While poise, leadership and intelligence are all a very big part of who this young man is, what makes him extra special is that there is a real air of confidence there. This isn’t arrogance by any stretch of the imagination. Peterson would be the last guy to toot his own horn, but there is no doubt in his mind that he has the skills and attitude to be a success. “I think what makes me a good quarterback is that I make the right decisions and don’t let myself get rattled when things aren’t going well. I know I have a great group of guys here, and so I just do my best.”
His best has been better than any other quarterback in a conference filled with big-time performers at the position. Ayrton Scott, Mitch Hendricks, Griffin Neal and Tim Bona are just a few of the amazing signal-callers in the MIAC, but one guy has put himself above the rest, and that is Erik Peterson.
Don’t tell him that though. While a young man who is confident about his abilities, he is the epitome of a Bethel Royals football player – the team is all that matters and the guys he enters the field with are way more than his teammates; they are his brothers. “I love these guys and am ready to go to battle with them every day. I want to be a guy who is there for his teammates, who cared way more about the team than myself. I want to be a guy who held the rope for his teammates.”
There is a lot to like and admire about this young man, but what really makes him standout goes way beyond his performance on the field, his dedication to his teammates, his love of his community, and his character and intelligence. What makes him really special is that he plays hard and gives his all for those that have sacrificed and worked hard for him, and that is no truer than how he wants to make his parents proud. “I think they are really proud of the choices that I made in coming here and how I have turned out as a man. They have been at every one of my sporting events and that has meant a lot to me. They have always supported me and done whatever they can to give me great opportunities. I want to be a man they can be proud of.”
There is a lot to be proud of in the senior quarrterback. Erik Peterson has proven to be a man that anyone would be proud to call friend, teammate, brother or classmate. He has worked hard and proven to be a winner on and off the field, while doing it all with a humble spirit and an incredible quality of character. Because of the season that Gusties QB Mitch Hendricks is having, is it unlikely that Bethel Royals quarterback Erik Peterson will be the MVP this season, but that’s ok. For anyone who is blessed to be around him, he is an MVP every day in life.
By Robert Pannier