Football is a game for the pass catchers and the ball carriers. The quarterbacks and the defensive stalwarts with their names in the paper and plastered in trophy cases.
But at it’s heart, football is a game of violence. A game of physicality in its purest form.
Colorado State senior tight end and fullback Nolan Peralta might not come with some of the recognition that it takes to fill up a trophy case, but as far as the hard hitting is concerned, he’s happy to oblige.
“I pride myself on being the hardest hitter, the most badass dude on the field,” Peralta said. “Whether or not that’s the truth, I believe it, and I go out and practice and play that way. It’s the standard that I set for myself.”
“He’s going to try to kill whoever he’s going against; try to run (them) over, get the pancake, whatever (you want to call it),” linebacker Kevin Davis said. “He is definitely one of the most physical guys on the field whenever he is out there.”
“Hardest worker” is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the football circle. And often times because of that, it loses a certain weight. But with Peralta, that term, and the physicality that comes with it truly means something.
It’s an approach that leaves no choice but to follow suit.
“He brings an element of toughness to this football team of I’m an unselfish player and I’m going to do whatever it takes to help this football team win,” coach Mike Bobo said. “Whether it’s practice or a game, I’m going 100 percent and that’s not an exaggeration. Every play he goes 100 percent.”
Peralta embodies that unselfish player in its simplest form. For much of his career, Peralta has been asked to be a blocker. Some tight ends are primary targets in the passing game, others like Peralta, help open holes so that others can get the glory.
With the departure of Ram tight ends Kivon Cartwright and Steven Walker last season, this year was supposed to be Peralta’s opportunity to become more involved in the passing game. But then probable starting fullback Adam Prentice went down with a knee injury in fall camp, and Peralta has stepped in to fill that position.
It’s a role he has played before, and one that he has no problem carrying out.
“My position (fullback), it’s not a hard position, it’s just a position about attitude,” Peralta said. “It’s basically me versus their middle linebacker or their defensive end or their toughest dudes. I’m going as hard as I can and to see who comes out the winner.”
That mentality has been engraved in his him his whole life. Peralta says that the game of football deserves to be played physically. That’s the standard he grew up with.
He sharpened that standard in his first two seasons at CSU, when he played on the other side of the ball, playing linebacker on a defense where he faced former Rams and now-NFL’ers in tight end Crockett Gilmore and center Weston Richburg.
“I feel like I’ve played with some of the best guys who have ever come through CSU, and I know I’ve been able to hang with them or at least hold my own against them.” Peralta said. “When I switched to offense I just tried to keep that mentality playing offense with a defensive mindset.”
As a primary blocker from either the tight end or fullback position, that physical defensive-offensive mindset serves him well.
“I find a lot of joy in physically dominated somebody when I am out on the field, and have the opportunity to do that and I try and take full advantage of it,” Peralta said. “It’s a physical game and it deserves to be played that way.”
Some player’s joy might come from catching a touchdown or making that big play. For Peralta, his joy comes from exerting his will on his opponent. That’s the skill-set he was given. That’s how he helps his team.
And he did have a chance this year to get some of that recognition when he caught his first career touchdown in the team’s 38-17 loss to Wyoming.
Whether Peralta would take a touchdown catch or a pancake block, he didn’t hesitate to answer.
“I’d rather take a touchdown pass,” Peralta said with a laugh, but he added, “A pancake is not to far behind for me because it’s a success for me.”
As far as outsiders go, he knows he plays a mostly thankless role, after all, the meat grinding fullback is certainly not your glamour position. But that’s okay with him.
His teammates can still see it on film or during the game when he “finishes off” an opponent. It works to fire up the sideline. And the people that matter, his teammates and his coaches, approve of him and the work that he puts into the team in his own way.
That physical domination and effort does more than make Peralta a solid contributor on the field. In a team that’s been in search of leadership for much of the season, Peralta stands as one of the standards.
Bobo said that true leaders have influence, Players might be pegged as a captain or a leader, but if nobody on the team listens to them and they don’t have any influence, it doesn’t matter.
Leadership comes from holding the same values as a coaching staff, of approaching things the right way. What Bobo wants, is epitomized by Peralta.
“Every play he is trying to do his job and dominate, and dominate his opponent, the guy in front of him,” Bobo said. “If he doesn’t do it right he is upset at himself and he holds himself to a high standard. It’s a great example for everybody on this football team and how you approach every single day.”
He can be a vocal motivator when need be, but it all starts in what Peralta’s teammates see in him as he takes the field every day.
“When you look in a man’s eyes and see that he has given his entire being to that play or that game, that you have given all the energy and effort that you possibly had, they want to match that,” Peralta said.
As far as matching standard’s go, Peralta’s is a pretty good way to start.
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5