LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky defensive lineman Corey Peters never thought he would be mentioned in the same sentence as the legendary Emmitt Smith.
For one, they span over different generations, not to mention the two don’t even play the same position much less on the same side of the ball. But what they lack in similarities on the football field, they make up for in community involvement, academic success and overall athletic accomplishments.
That’s why Peters, a two-year starter at UK, was named the runner-up for the Emmitt Smith Athletic Achievement Award last week at the Phi Beta Sigma international bi-annual awards conference in New Orleans.
South Florida’s George Selvie, one of the nation’s premier defensive players, won the award.
“It was an honor just to be mentioned in the same category as him,” said Peters, the vice president of the Phi Beta Sigma chapter at UK. “I wasn’t really upset about it. I was excited about it and just happy to be runner-up.
“It was a great feeling. I came into the situation not really expecting much. I actually found out a couple of days ahead of time that I was a finalist. I didn’t know who the other guys were until the actual awards, but I’m excited to even be in the same category with such a great player like Selvie.”
The award, which is named in honor of Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, is given to a collegian who demonstrates athletic achievement, academic success, and fraternity and community involvement. It is only awarded to Phi Beta Sigma members.
“I just think it’s such a great award because Emmitt Smith’s name is on the award,” Peters said. “Anything with his name on it is usually good."
Peters didn’t win anything for being the runner-up – the recipient receives a monetary scholarship, medallion and certificate – although Peters was unsure if he could have even accepted the award because of NCAA rules and regulations.
But the prize wasn’t what the award was about. The honor of the award and the experience of the convention were good enough.
“It’s really just a chance to come together with everyone from around the world and meet people that you didn’t know and build on that brotherhood aspect,” Peters said. “It’s a great opportunity and a great experience.”
Peters has excelled both on the field and off it during his career at UK. After a monster 2008 season, one in which he recorded 10 tackles for loss, including four sacks, he’s expected to be one of the leaders on a stingy defense. In addition to his work on the gridiron and with his fraternity, he’s managed to make the Southeastern Conference Honor Roll the past two years, all while being an active member in the community.
The 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive tackle is modest when he talks about what he’s accomplished at UK, but truth be told, not everyone can do it.
“A lot of it overlaps,” Peters said. “Playing football and going to school are the two things that you have to do. When you decide to join a fraternity … it’s a service organization. You’re supposed to improve the community that you’re in, do as much as you can and give back to charity.
“As a football player, there comes a lot of opportunities where we have a chance to go and use our influence to speak to children and stuff like that. When I go to speak to kids and when I do community service, I go as vice president of Phi Beta Sigma and I go as a football player. … I feel like as a member of a fraternity or the football team, we have a responsibility to give back to the community.”
(Note: thanks to Eric Lindsey, who wrote this story for the Cat Scratches blog on UKathletics.com.)