By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 18, 2014) – Desmon Peoples doesn’t have to be told what his production has been his first two seasons at Rutgers. He knows exactly what the numbers are.
“Six carries, one catch,” said the third-year sophomore running back.
So as he built off a dazzling spring with an impressive start to preseason camp, only to miss a week of practice with a lower body injury shortly after the summer sessions started, his frustration started to build. Then he talked to his family who reminded him that he simply needed to pick up where he left off once again.
“It was a little bit adversity,” Peoples said of his early camp injury. “You’re always going to face adversity – in games, throughout the year. I talked to my parents, my little brother, my little sister. They kept me up. That really helped.
“I never stayed away from practices and what they were doing when I was hurt -- the meetings, the film study. I never stayed away from anything. I was pretty much there, except on the field. I just had to get back and start back up.”
With Justin Goodwin moving from running back to cornerback last week (and apparently staying there for a while), and with a pair of freshmen (Josh Hicks and Robert Martin) the only other running backs behind starter Paul James, Peoples’ role has expanded into a significant one on the Scarlet Knights’ offense.
The 5-8, 175-pounder is an explosive runner able to turn the corner and is a dangerous big-play receiver in open space. Now he’s finally getting a chance to turn that potential into production.
“Any reps I get I’m trying to take advantage of,” Peoples said. “It feels great to have this opportunity. It’s what I wanted ever since I got here and now I’m ready for it. I want to take it on.”
Peoples arrived from Archbishop Wood (Pa.) with the promise of being a Ray Rice-type of back in terms of production. But a redshirt year, injuries, more injuries, and some ineffectiveness have limited his opportunities.
“In a sense it does seem like it took a while for me to get to this point,” said Peoples, who led his team to a 14-1 record and a state title as a senior, rushing for 1,241 and 23 TDs. “But good things sometimes take time. It’s something you have to work through. It’s not high school. It doesn’t come to you like a snap. Everyone is good when you get to college.
“Mentally I’d say I wasn’t even ready to play before this just because I didn’t know as much as I knew now. Physically, I’ve always felt I was ready. But the mental part of the game is so important when you’re at this level.”
Now he knows he has opportunity knocking. And everything – especially his health – is in place to make something of it.
“I’ve been waiting a while to help this football team,” he said. “Hopefully, this is the year I’m able to do that. I know I’m ready for whatever they need me to do.”