Thursday, August 21, 2008
I had always wondered what happened to Jason Peter. The apex of his career, when the Huskers eviscerated Peyton Manning and the Volunteers to clinch a share of the national championship, took place when I was 14 years old, and back then (Jesus, was that really 10 years ago?), you cheer for your favorite team, but it isn't a year-long obsession. When you're that age, you follow other sports, you go season-to-season. Still, throughout the 2000's, I followed the graduates of that team like Grant Wistrom, and wondered where his beastly D-line counterpart was.
Consider that question emphatically answered. For those of you who haven't read Peter's memoir "Hero of the Underground", you are missing out on a harrowing tale of despair and hope repeatedly renewed.
Football, drugs, suicide attempts. Little is left to the imagination by Peter, who goes into great detail describing his rise from a small New Jersey high school into a first-round draft pick, and later, his fall from grace. This book is an eye-opener on many levels, not only into underworld of heavy narcotics, but also the machines that are college and pro football. Peter speaks lovingly of his time at Nebraska, which is to some extent expected. All of us, for better or worse, look back at our collegiate years as our halcyon days, when the uncertainty of the future mixed with the invulnerability and invincibility of youth, and this part of the book, there are some genuinely heart-warming stories. The Nebraska portion of the book really makes you think about the pedestal we as fans put kids on. It's not just the Huskers I'm talking about, I'm sure it's the same thing if you go to Tuscaloosa or Norman. I've never thought what happens to guys after the machine churns them out. And obviously Peter's tale isn't the norm, but one still has to think about the psychological effects going from the highest levels of college football to the real world.
Jason Peter didn't go to the real world though. He was drafted by the Carolina Panthers with the 14th pick in the draft, and this is where the story radically changes and his drug abuse begins to mount. Those who are hoping for an in-depth look at pro football will be disappointed, because this isn't a football book. This is a memoir of a football player who becomes and addict and then fights his way back. The injuries started to set in for Jason, and that's when the reader is introduced to just how commonplace painkillers really are in football, particularly the NFL. I only played Division 3 football, and I'll tell you that I still deal with the effects of the wear and tear on my body. So to imagine what it must be like for an NFL player, whose body is routinely subjected to car-crash type collisions on a daily basis, is a painful thought. Jason was out of the league in 4 years, left with a lot of money and an addiction to painkillers that eventually leads to abuse of amounts of narcotics that seems almost inhuman.
I'm not going to go into detail, because you should definitely read the book. There are times when you really wonder how he emerged from his personal hell and beat his demons. There are several attempts at rehab, and with every relapse, you lose a little more hope for him, which makes his victory all the more satisfying and inspiring. I'll be honest, there are some parts of the book that seem repetitive and drag a bit, but what do you expect? Drug addicts tend to do the same thing over and over again: drugs. So naturally there is going to be some repetition. But while the writing is simplistic, it makes for an easy, everyman-type read, one that any person could pick up and become easily engrossed in. While it may be a quick read, it's also a good one, a story of one man's redemption after a journey through hell.
Buy the book here through the publisher's official website.
Or do it through Jason's own website, jasonpeter.com.
Posted by Husker Guy at 7:36 AM