BOSTON The journey from South Jordan, Utah, to the San Francisco Bowl as quarterback for the winning Boston College Eagles included a swing through the Nicaragua Managua Mission for Paul Peterson.
And he has enjoyed the ride, he said during a telephone interview with the Church News from the Boston home he shares with his wife, Meagan.
Fresh from an all-America career at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, Peterson arrived at a spot on the Eagles' bench last summer, jammed behind starter Quinton Porter.
Porter's injured finger in November when Boston College was 5-4 was Peterson's big break. Taking over the signal-calling duties in a game against West Virginia, Peterson wasn't able to pull the game out, but played well enough to earn a start the following week in a 35-25 victory over Rutgers. Then he capped the regular season by leading the team to an upset win over Virginia Tech, 34-27. "No one was expecting that," he said. "It was just awesome." The 7-5 team was off to the San Francisco Bowl.
Entrenched as the starter by that time, he came out firing against Colorado State at Pac Bell Park in the City by the Bay. His 50-yard TD pass helped the Eagles to a 21-0 first-quarter lead. He later threw another touchdown pass in his team's 35-21 triumph, completing 16 of 25 passes for 222 yards. Pressed for an evaluation, he begrudgingly admitted, "I felt good about my performance."
So how did a returned missionary end up leading the football team at one of the nation's oldest Catholic universities to three-straight, season-ending victories?
"I sent game films out to about 30 (NCAA) Division 1 teams," he said. That was after he boosted his stock by passing for 2,982 yards and 35 touchdowns in 10 games in 2002 for 8-2 Snow College, tops in both categories in the National Junior College Athletics Association. That earned him J.C. all-America honors.
The film went out to schools such as Kansas and South Carolina, but Boston College came back with a quick response and Peterson jumped just as quickly. He was sold on the academic standards and football tradition of the Big East Conference school. BYU? He said the school where his brother, Charlie, played seemed already full of quarterbacks.
Religion is not a big point of controversy at Boston College, Peterson said. In fact, he called it a missionary opportunity. "Not a lot of people I'm around have met a member of the Church," said the finance major. "I get to talk about religion often." Teammates, classmates and others "come to me and ask me questions."
Out of high school, Peterson went straight to Snow College. He said he always intended to serve a mission, but the timing had to be worked out. He sat out that first season, saving all four years of eligibility for after the mission.
"There is a time when you have to decide when to go on a mission and when to play football," said the member of the Cambridge 2nd Ward, Cambridge Massachusetts Stake. "I always knew I was going to go. How things worked out, I think I've just been blessed."
One of the blessings is his wife, whom he met at Snow College and married in 2002, making him the only married member of the Boston College team. He said teammates were astounded he could deal with both a wife and football. He remembered, "At first it was hard for the team to accept." They wanted him to hang out with them, not a wife. "They asked a lot of questions." More missionary opportunities.
After the stress and hard work of preparing for a bowl game, Peterson is enjoying some down time. But he realizes it won't be long before he is back battling Porter for the chance to start at quarterback for the Eagles as a senior. He acknowledges that Porter, his traveling roommate and good friend, is a formidable rival at the position. "Spring practices will be interesting," he concluded.