HERO OF THE UNDERGROUND: A MEMOIR by Jason Peter with Tony O’Neill (St. Martin’s), 304 pages, $27.95 paper. Rating: NN
As far as famous football players go, the name Jason Peter doesn't exactly rank up there with the Montanas and Mannings. In fact, unless you followed college football in the mid-90s, it probably wouldn't register at all, since his time in the NFL lasted only slightly longer than a Super Bowl commercial.
The reason Peter felt the need to document his short pro career has to do with what happened on the field, but also with what he so recklessly did off it.
He was treated as a deity by the Nebraska faithful as a teenage defensive menace who led the Huskers to three championship seasons, then started a pro career in North Carolina, where his health failed. He soon turned into a crack-pipe-sucking fiend hiding in darkened apartments for months on end.
Peter points to the use of painkillers when he was playing for the Panthers as his addiction starting point. Star-struck doctors who gladly refilled prescriptions in exchange for autographed jerseys led to an 80 Vicodin-a-day habit. He was eventually cut from the team, and his life spiralled into a world of coke, crack and heroin.
Peter reveals his own darkest moments of drug abuse, but it's almost unforgivable that he sweeps under the rug the fact that his brother Christian, who guided him during those glory years at Nebraska, was at the centre of a notorious case of athlete protectionism. Christian raped a girl, twice, and ultimately received a one-game suspension - an off-season exhibition match. There's not a single mention of this episode in Hero.
Perhaps that horrific story is for another memoir. This one is about Jason Peter getting his life together, coming out a winner as he did so many times on the gridiron. If he'd had the courage to come fully clean, it might feel like a true victory.