By: Toph Kopchak Head of AFL Coverage
One of the final pieces was just set as the Columbus Destroyers get ready to head to Albany NY this Saturday to kickoff the new season. Columbus just added one of the most accurate legs in all of football in Craig Peterson, but we will let him tell you the rest:
My name is Craig Peterson. I was born and raised in Albany, New York and went to Burnt Hills Ballston Lake high school. Last year I played for the Carolina Cobras and our team won the National Arena League championship. After winning the championship, I received special teams player of the year and first team ALL NAL. I also had a team high of 154 points which was good for 3rd in the league. This year, I had an opportunity to compete against 4 other kickers for the job in Columbus. Drew Basil and Tyler Durbin were among the kickers I was competing against. Both had gone to and played football at Ohio State University. Here I was the only kicker there who had never played high school or college football. I was eager and excited to compete for the job against such a talented group of kickers. After 4 long, consecutive days of competition, I came out on top! Every day I went in, I just focused on hitting my ball and being consistent. I was statistically at the top of every category consisting of extra points, field goals, kickoff accuracy and onside kicks. After meeting with the coaching staff afterwards and being awarded the job, I was ecstatic!
How you feel about being in Columbus?
Now that I’ve been here in Columbus for a few weeks I’ve had a chance to go out and explore the city a little bit. I like it here and the fact that Ohio State is right around the corner makes it even more of a football city which I love. Last week I was able to attend a class at Schoenbaum hall at Ohio State with Fred Whitfield, chief operating officer of the Charlotte Hornets, and Eddie George, 9 year NFL vet and former Ohio State running back, speaking to the class about their stories of how they got to where they are today. That’s why I feel as though there is so much to do in Columbus so I’m excited for the upcoming season. It would be ideal if we could bring an arena championship here to this city as the Columbus Destroyers are finally back in the AFL. So I’m blessed to be able to be a part of this great organization and will do everything I can to help this team win football games! #TheReturn.
In 2015 you made 85 XP 11 tackles and a forced fumble...sure you're a Kicker??
Playing in Tampa Bay for the Storm in 2015 was my first year playing football. I had been with the Ottawa Redblacks of the CFL only in training camp during 2014 but prior to that I had no football experience. For never playing in a game before, my first season with the Storm went very well. I feel as though I’m not an ordinary kicker standing at 6 foot 3 weighing 225 pounds, but I also like to make big plays like hitting game winning field goals, making tackles, forcing fumbles and hitting bar balls. Everyone always counts the kicker out on the kickoff returns but when I’m on the field it’s always 8v8. Making a big tackle on special teams is exhilarating and forcing a fumble can change the momentum of a game.
Difference from NAL to AFL?
Being in the NAL was a bit different last year compared to playing in the AFL. That league had the deuce rule on kickoffs which meant that if you kicked the ball through the uprights your team was awarded 2 points. Essentially it’s a 58 yard field goal off a 1 inch tee. This made the kickers in the league that much more important as you could score a touchdowns worth of points just by hitting deuces throughout a game. I had shattered the previous record of 21 deuces in a single season when I recorded my 30th deuce in the NAL championship game. The only other difference in the kicking game is the NAL doesn’t have the bars and nets along the back of the end zones. I missed the bars because getting a bar ball off of a kickoff can be crucial in turning the game around for your team, so I’m excited to have them back. I can’t wait to get this season started!