Catching up with the Peer's
Posted May 29, 2016
Winning ways seem to be a Peer family tradition, no matter the sport.
By Brayden Leather
T.J. Peer, along with his fellow senior classmates, completed his senior year of high school when the 3:30 bell rang signifying dismissal on Friday. Although graduation is not until Thursday, the sound of the bell offically ended a exciting chapter in the book of T.J. Peer's life, and began a new one. He is no longer the three-sport high school athlete he once was, playing football, basketball, and lacrosse. But he will hang on to one of those sports as he prepares to play football at Frostburg State University in the fall. His younger sister, Sara, is a junior who competes in three sports; cheerleading, bocce ball, and unified track. Recently, I had the chance to talk to both T.J. and Sara to discuss their athletic careers and acomplishments.
Most of the time, if you're a sportswriter, one of the main questions you ask the athlete (or athletes in this case) about their thoughts on how their team performed and what they thought of their own personal season performance. The first part of the question was easy for them both to answer. T.J. started by describing how much of a team effort was put forth by his teammates on the football field saying, "I couldn't have done it all by myself. There are eleven people on the field at one time and without the other ten, I couldn't have done anything and we all worked together as a team to accomplish what we did." Sara kept it short and sweet saying "teamwork makes the dream work."
Tough question coming here. It involves the athlete talking about themselves which is something many student-athletes refuse to do, especially if you are the son and/or daughter of a coach like T.J. and Sara are. It was about as risky as passing the football on 2nd and goal with the ball on the half-yard line rather than handing the ball off to your star running back like the Seahawks chose to do against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Well, maybe not quite as risky. Ok, nowhere near as risky. So, what would South's two-year varsity starting quarterback claim to be the highlight of his career? Not one thing stands out over others. T.J. responded talking about adding up "everything I've done combinded and going on to play football at the next level." That is a veteran-like move by T.J. by changing his answer from what he had perviously said when interviewing earlier in the school year for his Senior Profile in the yearbook. He had answered "there have been so many, but the win over North Hagerstown my junior year leading South Hagerstown to their first perfect 10-0 record would be the one that stands out." There is nothing wrong with either answer, but experience and maturety gave him the right idea to grasp everything, especially one of his biggest moments of his football career which came when he signed a letter of intent to play for the Frostburg State University Bobcats. Sara's answer was close to T.J.'s yearbook answer; they both involved being part of South High history as Sara noted the accomplishment of being part of the cheerleading team that went to Westminster to participate in the first cheerleading competeion for South in 18 years.
How about we follow up that "tough" question with a really simple one; what lead you to play your sport? If you know anything about T.J. and Sara, you know that football is basically a religon in the Peer household. Their father, Toby, is the head football coach for South and coincidentally, Coach Peer happpend to pass by us while they were giving their answers, promptly giving a thumbs up as he passed. T.J. answered first saying "growing up around football my whole life and being around my father." Sara also stayed along the lines of family-influence talking about how her brother and father were always around football so cheering was the thing to do. I honestly would not have been surprised if they both would've just looked at me with the expression on their faces saying, "do we really have to answer that?" but I am glad they did answer in the end because otherwise, I would not have been able to tell you about Coach Peer's cameo.
If you are a member of the senior class of 2016 reading this, wasn't your class quite the performer in the athletic world? Countless state champions from the class including Darren Harman and Chelsea Wright from track and Brandon Ngati in wrestling. Many obsticals were overcame by this year's senior class making them one the school can talk about for many years after they graduate this week. I asked T.J. about how he thought his class performed overall this year. He told me "there are always going to be underachievers and overachievers, but as a group we achieved a lot with what we were given..." I couldn't have said it better myself. Congratulations on a successful senior campaign, class of 2016!
Now how about those unified bocce and unified track teams from this year? Bocce claimed a bronze medal at states while unified track finished tied for second in the county, but first in states. Sara Peer was part of both of those sucessful teams so I decided to ask her about her thoughts on what they accomplished as a team. "It went amazing! I loved every part of it! The kids worked so hard and I love being with them. I'd rather play a unified sport than any sport any day." Both teams, like Sara said, worked very hard and showed just how competetive unified sports at South High are. Great job to everybody who was part of the team this year, and if you were not, then I suggest you sign-up to be part of it next year.
Let's go back in time. It's now March 9th and nearly one hundred, maybe even more, people stand in a stuffy library at South High, celebrating seven senior student-athletes signing to play a sport in college next year. It doesn't help that it is an unseasonably warm day outside for the begining of March and there are lots of people in the library, but we sweat it out (literally). T.J. Peer, along with three of his football teammates, Raymond Johns, Deandre Richmond, and Justin Mitchell, are offically committed to Frostburg State University for the upcoming football season. Now jump back to present day. It's not often you get the comfort of knowing at least three of your teammates from high school will be joining you at the next level, so what does T.J. think about it? "I think it's great that we represent South High well with us three and it will great to see them again the next four years and play with them and contiue our athletic and academic careers, and it shows that you can make it from South High into a college football program." Another rarity is being able to say you played football with the same group of guys from the eighth grade until your senior year. T.J. thought it "adds a lot of value" and they were able to learn the football system that they were in and build on to it each year and evolve into the players they are today.
When you are part of a winning tradition like the Peer's are, you tend to recieve a lot of recognition for your hard work and dedication. Among awards and achievements this year, T.J. was named one of the recipeints of the annual South High Alumni Association Scholarship and even payed homage to one of South High's most deicated volunteers, the late Jimmy Winters, by wearing his South High blazer to the award ceremony where he was one of the fifteen recipients of the True Grit award which also comes with a scholarship. But does T.J. personally think he deserved this awards or was it a team effort to help him earn them? No surprise when T.J. gave credit when it was due to his loyal teammates from over the years saying "it's awarded to me but really it's awarded to everyone I've played with and how I couldn't have done anything without the rest of them."
Now we are back on cheerleading. As mentioned earlier, the winter cheerleading team was the first cheer team from South to go to a competetion since 1998 when the competetion was won by the Rebels at Shepherd University. Eighteen years later in 2016, the competetion was held at Westminster High School. Although the team did not get the results they had hoped for, Sara said it was an exciting experience despite having a few girls get injured or fall ineligble but they enjoyed the experience and she looks forward to competeing again next year.
At the end of each of my interviews I conduct, I ask the people I am interviewing if there are any last-minute thoughts they would like to include. Usually I get a shake of the head or a "no" but T.J. Peer became the first to come up with something to include saying, "it was a great time being at South High and being with the people and it's great to say you are from South High and I wouldn't trade in the last four years for anywhere else." So now, T.J. has an interview article with his sister published prior to offically being released from South when he walks the stage and recieves his diploma on Thursday to look back on. This was likely my final interview for the school year, but I hope to be back at it again next year. I send my thanks to T.J. and Sara Peer and the other athletes I have interviewed and written about this year. Congratulations once again to T.J. and the graduating senior class and good luck in the future! Never forget where you came from and how you made it to where you are now and the people who have helped you along the way. Go Rebels!