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Peoples Beamerball-bound

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The Maroon Tide’s record-setting Steven Peoples committed to Virginia Tech as an invited walk-on.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

A lot of newspaper stories about high school athletes signing with this college or that college include a lot of similar content. The athlete liked the school when he or she visited. The people there were nice. The coach was great when I met him or her.

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The meat quote from Steven Peoples is a little different.

“They gave me this opportunity, and I’m going to take it,” he said. “I didn’t want to go to a D-II school and wonder if I could have done it or not. I just took the opportunity.”

Something like that stands out. But we’re talking about Steven Peoples here, and most things about the Galax runningback stand out.

Peoples committed Friday to go to Virginia Tech as a recruited walk-on after concluding one of the greatest seasons in Virginia high school football history. As a 5-foot-11, 200-pound tailback, Peoples put together the second-highest rushing total ever in the Commonwealth, running for 3,078 yards in 11 games, falling just 241 yards short of the state record, a 14-game total of 3,319 yards set by Powell Valley’s Thomas Jones in 1994. Peoples’ numbers include the state single-game record of 502 yards – on 22 carries – against Graham. 

Despite being the feature ballcarrier in just his senior season, Peoples finished his career with 5,817 yards.

“I know [Tech] has a lot of great players down there, but they got a steal, and I think they know they got one,” said his coach, Mark Dixon. “They’ve got a special payer coming, they know it, and I look for him to do some special things down there.”

A former all-America offensive lineman at Virginia, Dixon has a pretty good  idea what he’s talking about. The Maroon Tide coach has said that his kid is better than any fullback he played with in Charlottesville.

“Mainly because of his power,” he said. “In the 9th grade there was so much talent here and I remember him being out there with them, and I was so hard on him because he looked just like them,” Dixon recalled. “They were all 12th-graders and he was in 9th. You could just see the power, even before he lifted a weight.”

Yet when Dixon spoke of Peoples’ development since that freshman year, physical ability isn’t the highest item on the list.

“I’m proud of the man he’s become,” Dixon said. “It’s so much more than football. He’s grown as a man. I think about my wife [Wendy, a GHS teacher] when I think about Steven, and I think about what he’s turned into.”

The coach said there weren’t many programs of which Mrs. Dixon would approve for Peoples to be playing. Virginia Tech is at the top of that short list. 

An admitted life-long Tech fan, Peoples drew interest from far and wide, including most of the state’s FBS schools and a couple other ACC programs. He was also coveted by several smaller schools and was offered by Division II Catawba.

“There were a couple of other schools that I liked,” he said, “but Tech was my favorite one. Tech’s been my dream school ever since I was little. This is like a dream come true.”

“I’m happy for his mom and his family, I’m happy for him and the man he’s turned out to be and I’m happy for the community that has been so supportive to him,” said Dixon. “We see it now at the end, but there have been  people all along the way that have helped and been a part of what’s happening today. Steven’s aware of that, he’s so humble and he appreciates that.”

Anyone who has seen film of Peoples with the ball in his hands can appreciate that most of his carries were violent ones. In that regard, the newest Hokie liked what he saw on his visits to Blacksburg.

“I went up there a couple of times, watched a couple of practices, it’s just so intense,” he said. “I liked everything about it. It’s the place I want to go.”

Dixon has lauded Peoples’ skill-set as a fullback, and Peoples said he expects to be with the offense in Blacksburg. The big thing will be shoe-horning his way onto the field on a team used to signing three- and four-star recruits. 

“The key for any young guy in college football is to find a way to get on to special teams,” Dixon said. “That’s your first way to get out there.”

As far as Tech’s designs for Peoples, Dixon isn’t sure.

“He can do either [offense or defense],” he said. “At the end of the day it’s blocking, tackling and running, and he does all three real well.”

“It’s going to be a lot of work. I know that,” said Peoples. “I’ve just got to keep working hard, try to get faster and stronger. That’s all I can do. Go up there and give it my all, do the best I can do.”