Once known as a special teams one-man wrecking crew, Levi Peters has since risen to the top of the linebacker depth chart and has quickly become a fan favorite for his intensity and interesting personality. So step into the lounge, pull up a chair, grab a drink and join the conversation with one of the most flamboyant to don the cardinal and gold.
WRNL: Hey Levi, tell us a little bit about yourself; hobbies, interests, anything that comes to mind.
Levi: I grew up in Gilmore City, Iowa which is a very small town, where I grew up on a farm and had a passion for helping my dad in the field. I always played as many sports as I could, and when I wasn't playing sports I spent my time outside. I could never sit still (probably due to my ADHD), and loved to fish and hunt. My brothers and a few buddies (Bubba and Cody) enjoyed hunting and fishing with me as well. If we weren't hunting or fishing, we were probably out blowing things up or building forts.
WRNL: I see you played multiple sports in high school, and if I remember correctly, you transferred from Twin River Valley to Fort Dodge. Talk a little bit about that and playing multiple sports.
Levi: I went to TRV my whole life until the last semester of my junior year, then I transferred to Fort Dodge. Transferring was quite an adjustment, as TRV was 1-A (which means 8 man football) and Fort Dodge was mostly 3-A. Also, it's a pretty big change to go from having 17 people in your class to around 300.
Football was the biggest adjustment, as I'd never played 11-man football. Coach Miller mentioned when I got there that he wanted me to play quarterback, but I really wanted to play defense. I agreed to give it a try under the conditions that he let me play linebacker too. So I ended up playing quarterback, punter, and linebacker, and I had a blast. Nik Moser was my linebacker coach, and he's still a good friend of mine to this day. We had a great senior year, but suffered a heartbreaking loss in the first round of the playoffs.
Wrestling was not my favorite sport, but I'm glad I did it as it's helped tremendously with everything in my life. It taught me the discipline that I just didn't get any other place. As a freshman I was a state qualifier, coming one match short of placing. My sophomore year I did a little better and ended up getting 2nd at state. My junior year I ended up winning a state title, which I followed with a runner up finish as a senior.
**Check out this video of Levi to see his wrestling abilities!**
Baseball was definitely my favorite sport. At TRV I played shortstop and pitched because we were short on players, but I really enjoyed catching. At Fort Dodge, I got back to playing catcher, but was admittedly pretty out of practice. I ended up adjusting and made 1st team all state catcher, which made me really want to play college baseball. Tearing my meniscus twice during my senior year sort of derailed that dream. As it turned out, Coach Bleil had been in contact with me about playing football for Iowa State. I really enjoyed my official visit, so I decided to walk on and play linebacker for ISU.
WRNL: You had an interesting first couple of seasons at Iowa State, as you were gray shirted and then redshirted, and spent a majority of those years on the practice squad. What were your first few seasons like?
Levi: The first few years were pretty tough for me. I gray shirted due to knee surgery that summer, so I didn't get to practice with the team that fall. By the time the spring rolled around, I was finally working out and practicing with the team. Though I started spring ball as a safety, it didn't take long to be moved to linebacker. See, I had fallen down three times in a row during a DB drill, and Coach Douglas didn't think I could be coached up. Thankfully, Wally called me into his office the next day, and told me I'd be playing linebacker. I was very thankful for the opportunity, and excited to have a chance to learn from guys like A.J. Klein and Jake Knott.
I only managed to get to day 4 of spring ball before getting hurt; during a tunnel drill, I made contact with a tight end and felt my foot pop out of place. Turns out I had a lisfranc fracture in my foot, which affected the ligaments holding the whole damn unit together. A surgery and two screws later, I was spending the whole off-season rehabbing and trying to get back on the field. That year on the first day of fall camp, I had surgery to get the screws taken out and I was finally ready to go.
Around week 8, coach Shane Burnham asked if I could play on the kickoff team. I was excited for a chance to play in those last few games, even though it meant burning my red shirt. Though I didn't play, I knew I had the coaches' attention. When spring ball came that next season, I was on the depth chart for all four special teams. I took a lot of pride in being able to start on special teams as a redshirt freshman that fall.
Looking back, having little experience with 11 man football left me clueless as to what Coach Wally was talking about in meetings. That carried over to the field, and left me running around like a chicken with its head cut off, which is probably how I ended up getting a shot on special teams. I remember Coach Rhoads called me into his office one day to watch film. He tried to teach me how to actually watch film, instead of just watching the game, and I'll never forget what he told me.
He said: "There are players that are smart and do the right thing but just can't make plays. And then there are players like you, that go the complete ass wrong way, and still make plays. We try to find a way to get players like that on the field." That quote is still pretty funny to me, and I think I gave Wally a little more gray hair (or hair loss) those first few years.
WRNL: What did you enjoy the most about special teams? You were an absolute animal running down the field on kickoffs... What kind of mentality does it take to make an impact on special teams?
Levi: I took so much pride in being on special teams, as just being out there playing was a dream come true. Kickoff was my favorite because Shane put me at missile. I had no responsibility, except to cause hell for the opponent's return team and turn the returner to our leverage players. Every time I was running down the field I was looking for a guy that I could hit as hard as I could.
Being a missile meant I couldn't have any fear, and I liked hitting bigger guys because the bigger the guy, the harder the collision (I guess you could say I have a few screws loose). Sometimes I would run down the field as fast as I could just screaming, which was so much fun. To sum it all up, I would say that every play I either whooped someone's ass, or got my own ass whooped.
WRNL: Do you want to talk about the injury you sustained in 2014? While that may have been rough, you also got some big news that season. How would you describe the moment you found out you'd earned a football scholarship?
Levi: You know, I thought my achilles felt a little weird that week....
I felt a little pop during practice one day, and had the trainers look at it. It was a little sore, which is a normal feeling after any football practice. I practiced the rest of the week and ran around full speed just fine.
I played the first half of the Kansas State game, and it felt fine. Early in the third quarter I was running down the field, not blocking anyone, and my leg popped. After the play, I tried to run back to the sideline and realized my foot was just dragging. It felt like my foot wasn't even there and my calf was in a ball, which was an incredibly painful sensation. After thinking it was a cramp and trying to stretch it out, the doctor took a look at it. When he realized I couldn't even stand on my toes on that foot, he told me I'd torn my achilles.
While I was upset, I knew anger and pouting would get me nowhere. After my surgery, I stayed engaged with the team, helping from the sidelines and taking notes in practice. In all honesty, being hurt helped me to learn the defense, and ended up being a blessing.
Man, was I hard on my casts though. I think I ended up going through three or four casts by the time I was finished. One of those was walking through a stream with a cast on while hunting with Brock Dagel, who was also hurt at the time. Turns out you can't do that.
After missing pretty much that whole season, even though I had a hunch I was close, getting a scholarship rarely crossed my mind. Turns out Coach Rhoads thought I had done enough for the team to earn one.
We were leaving a team meeting before Christmas break, after breaking it down with "ALL IN" of course, when coach Rhoads whistled. He said, "I almost forgot... Levi, you're not coming back to play for this team without a scholarship."
It caught me by surprise, and almost dropped me to my knees. I could only put my head down as all of my teammates cheered and jumped on me. It was one of the best feelings in my life. Getting a scholarship was a goal of mine from day one, and it was rewarding to know all my hard work paid off. Calling my parents to tell them the news was probably the best phone call ever.
WRNL: 2015 finds you starting on the defensive side of the ball as a linebacker. What has this season been like for you? How big was the transition to a starting role?
Levi: Being a starter has been a goal of mine since I got here, though I wasn't sure I'd actually accomplish it. And I can probably speak for Wally when I say he never thought I'd start either. Being out there with the 1s helped me get better, and it was all those reps in the spring that helped me feel at home as a starter. Now, I not only know my position, but I understand the job of everyone around me. Knowing your job is one thing, but knowing the whole defense makes playing it that much easier. Again, I owe Coach Wally a lot of credit for giving me this opportunity.
WRNL: Now, on to some fun questions... Tell us about the beard and about what's behind all the hair/beard combinations you've used over the years.
Levi: The beard has just became a part of who I am, man. I haven't done anything crazy with my hair this year, but previously I did it just to have fun. It started in camp, where I got a different haircut every week to help me relax and ease the stress that comes with practice. Bringing a little humor to practice and your teammates can go a long way, and it carried over into the season. In fact, I ended up taking suggestions from guys on the team as to what I should shave into it. Thankfully, my hair grows back pretty damn fast.
WRNL: What items do you most frequently lose in your beard?
Levi: After a hunting trip I always find sticks and twigs in my beard, and I can't eat an ice cream cone without losing half of it in my beard. We always have french toast or pancakes for breakfast before practice, which is awesome because during practice when I start sweating, I get to enjoy the leftover syrup that is stuck in my beard.
WRNL: What is your favorite non-football activity?
Levi: It's a tough call between hunting and fishing, since I enjoy them both. If it's not football season, you can usually catch me at the river or the woods.
WRNL: When I interviewed Jared Weaver, he hinted that you may have a bit of a nerdy side... Is this true?
Levi: Well thanks to his help with calculus a couple years ago, and I ended up doing pretty well in the class. I'm sure he thinks I'm smarter than I actually am.
WRNL: What is your favorite part about playing football? What gets you amped up out there on the field?
Levi: I'd say the physical nature of football and the big hits that come with it. There is nothing better than smacking someone or watching your teammate smack someone to get you pumped up.
WRNL: Marry, Fuck, Kill: Anna Kendrick, Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence.
Levi: Man, I had to look all of those names up because I have no clue what any movie stars' names are. Judging by Google, I would say marry Anna Kendrick, fuck Jennifer Lawrence, kill Emma Watson.
WRNL: Favorite kind of music? Being an Ag Business major, I could see country. But you also seem like a rock n' roll guy, much like myself.
Levi: I love country music, and it's definitely what I listen to the most. Yes, I also love classic rock, it really pumps me up. And I like to party to classic rock.
WRNL: Speaking of partying, what's your favorite beer?
Levi: Busch Light, of course.
WRNL: Top 5 bands/singers?
Levi: Eric Church, David Allen Coe, Lynyrd Skynyrd, George Strait, Johnny Cash.
WRNL: What did you go as for Halloween?
Levi: I didn't have a costume this year, but last year I dressed up as a terrorist. With my beard, it ended up being a really funny costume.
WRNL: Finally, would you rather eat 30 pounds of cheese in one sitting or an entire bucket of peanut butter with nothing to wash it down?
Levi: I love cheese. I put extra cheese on everything I eat, so I would go with cheese.
Huge thanks to Levi for taking the time to answer our questions. Best of luck to him and the team for the remainder of the season! Go Cyclones!