Dec. 18, 2008
Record-breaking national sacks leader Greg Peach had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming.
The Eastern Washington University senior was honored Thursday (Dec. 18) by The Sports Network as this year's recipient of the Buck Buchanan Award given to the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
The award was presented to Peach at The Sports Network's annual awards banquet in Chattanooga, Tenn., on the eve of the FCS championship game between Montana and Richmond. Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin and Peach's parents, Jay and Anna-Lisa Peach, also attended the event.
"It's a very prestigious award, and I would have never thought coming in here that I could receive it," said Peach, who led FCS with 18 sacks in the 2008 season. "It's an amazing, once in a lifetime, honor."
Weighing just 205 pounds when he arrived on the EWU campus in Cheney, Wash., back in 2005, Peach finished his career with 35 1/2 sacks to set school records for both single season and career sacks. He finished his career as a two-time FCS All-American and now stands a stout 6-foot-3, 235 pounds and hopes to continue his career in the professional ranks.
"It's hard for me to see myself as the top defensive player," admitted the 2005 graduate of Evergreen, Wash., High School. "Fortunately there were other people that thought that, and it's great that I won. It's a great compliment. But I have a lot of work to do to get to the next level, and I'm going to keep working to get better."
One person who was not surprised was Baldwin, who was an assistant coach at Eastern in 2005 when Erik Meyer won the Walter Payton Award given to the top offensive player in FCS. Baldwin watched Peach have six multi-sack games in 2008, including four against the Grizzlies.
"I'm repeating myself, but everything that has come his way he's earned," he said. "I was fortunate enough to be a part of recruiting Greg, and he weighed 205 pounds when he got here. He wondered if he would be able to fit in here, but even with that humbleness he had an inner confidence that took him to where he is now. It's a really impressive honor to win the Buchanan Award, but again, he deserves it."
Peach was honored on Dec. 12 as a first team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation, and on Thursday the American Football Coaches Association also named him to its All-America team. Another first team All-America honor was awarded to him by the Associated Press.
Peach was named the Big Sky Conference Defensive MVP after leading FCS and the league with averages of 1.64 sacks and 2.1 tackles for loss per game. Peach also set school records at Eastern for season tackles for loss (28) and career tackles for loss (63), and was twice honored as a first team All-Big Sky selection.
He finished his career ranked second in both single season and career sacks in the Big Sky, and in the top five in both categories in FCS history (since 2000 when the BSC and FCS began recognizing sacks, tackles and tackles for loss as official statistics).
"It's only been a couple of weeks since I've been off the field, so it hasn't hit me as much as it probably will later in life," Peach said of his many accolades. "I have absolutely no regrets about my career, and I think the last two years I've played to the best of my ability and things have worked out for me. It was a great way to end my career and I'm thankful for it."
On Friday, Peach and Baldwin will attend the FCS Championship game before heading to nearby Nashville to watch former Eagle Michael Roos play in Sunday's game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers. Roos, who is also from Vancouver, Wash. (Mountain View HS '00), is the starting left offensive tackle for the Titans and was recently named to his first Pro Bowl. He last played at EWU in 2004 -- the year before Peach arrived on campus.
"I'm so happy for Michael and what he's accomplished," said Baldwin. "His story coming out of high school is very similar to Greg's. He was undersized -- I think he weighed 220 pounds coming out of high school -- and he was a basketball player who played only one year of high school football. It's a proud feeling to see those guys develop into this type of player. But the majority of credit always goes to their work ethic. They have that extra something to get them from being a talented player to a great player and an All-America player. And now, for Michael Roos, All-Pro and for Greg, the Buchanan Award -- you can't get any higher than that."
Since becoming a Tennessee Titan, Roos has started 62-consecutive regular season games for Tennessee. In addition to one AFC Playoff game (following the 2007 season), 16 preseason games and 35 starts to end his EWU career, he has a current streak of 111-straight starts heading Sunday's pivotal game between the 12-2 Titans and the 11-3 Steelers.
More on Greg Peach, and a video of some of his 2008 highlights, may be found at:
Eastern's complete season wrap-up may be found at:
The Sports Network's FCS site:
More Comments from Greg Peach . . .
-- Peach on 2008 Season After Going Sackless in First Two Games --"I had a lot of film study and coaches giving me tips -- especially coach (Ryan) Sawyer. They told me things I needed to work on. After the Western game (three sacks) was when I started to hit my stride and make plays. That was the turning point to my season."
-- Peach on Four Sacks Versus UM -- "Montana is always our biggest competition every year, and it was great to have a good game against them. We lost the game, but it was a feather in my cap to have that kind of game against a team that can be the national champions. I'm going to be there rooting for them. It really represents our conference well when a team from the Big Sky can play for the national title."
-- Peach on Four Years of Development -- "My first year it wasn't very much fun getting thrown in there -- it was pretty miserable actually. But getting that experience is what helped me the most. (My third year was) when things really started clicking, and coach (Malik) Roberson showed me a ton of things that really helped me. Those years gave me the experience, and this year everything came together. I learned some little things that helped me get better."
-- Peach on Fellow Defensive Linemen Jason Belford and Lance Witherspoon -- "I wouldn't be here without them along the line with me. For four-straight years the three of us played together. We're best friends off the field, and on the field it's so easy to play with guys you want to succeed with. Without them I wouldn't be sitting here talking about the Buchanan Award."
-- Peach on Michael Roos -- "I watch him every time I can on Sundays and he's one of the top offensive linemen in the NFL. He deserves to go to the Pro Bowl and probably should have been in it last year and the year before that too. It's tough to get recognition coming from a small school, especially as an offensive lineman. That's why it's such a huge deal that he made it this year. He deserves it by his play, but now his name is going to be up there and people are going to recognize him as one of the top o-linemen out there."
-- Peach on Going Against Roos -- "Jason Belford said he was the toughest player he had to face on any field. At times I think I want to play against him, but I'm really glad I didn't have to as a freshman. It probably would have discouraged me a lot because he's so good."
-- Peach on Sack Totals if Roos was on EWU's Team Now -- "If you think about it, maybe if he was here I would have had more sacks. You can become a better player going against a offensive tackle like that."
-- Peach on Support From Family -- "All my family, and my parents especially, have always been there to support me. Hopefully they can come back to watch next year if I make it to the next level."
More Comments from EWU Head Coach Beau Baldwin . . .
-- Baldwin on Peach's Work Ethic -- "There are players who have talent and get good numbers, and there are players who work hard and have solid numbers. Greg is that rare football player that has both. A lot of his sacks were because of his talent and the things he could do against offensive linemen. There were other situations where it's just a matter of playing to the end of the play -- he was just relentless and kept coming. Instead of letting up when the quarterback is scrambling, he never stops and his motor keeps going. It's a combination of both that gets you to the level he is at now as a two-time All-American and the winner of the Buchanan Award."
-- Baldwin on National Awards -- "It's special. It was an exciting time three years ago when Erik Meyer won the Payton Award and this is just as special. With all the great players at this level, to have the player of the year come from Eastern Washington University is humbling. It's a great feeling for our university, but the credit goes to Greg and what he was able to do. We are very fortunate to reap the benefits of what he was able to accomplish here."
-- Baldwin on Developing Players Like Peach at EWU -- "You have to develop players at this level and at Eastern Washington University. Schools at the highest level recruit players that are more ready-made and you know what they are capable of coming out of high school. At our level we make projections on a lot on players that I believe some of the bigger schools miss out on. We're always going to be successful if we have players that develop into that type of player. Greg is one of those kind of players."