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Trib: Former star Peyton eager to make most of second chance


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Former star Peyton eager to make most of second chance

By EDDIE DANIELS | The Tampa Tribune


39314_0326peyton.jpg

Johnny Peyton was a standout receiver for both Pasco High and USF before finding himself in trouble.


In the world of adages, when someone falls, it's imperative they get back to their feet, dust themselves off and conquer what knocked them back.

For former Pasco High star receiver Johnny Peyton, the process of picking himself up and getting back to a sense of normalcy has begun.

"I stumbled and I'm back walking straight now," said a reflective Peyton.

In the next three days, Peyton could walk straight into a professional football contract.

Saturday he has a tryout with the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders, and two days later he will put his abilities on display for NFL scouts at a Pro Day workout held at Valdosta State in Georgia.

As wistful as it all sounds, there was a moment when life's challenges had Peyton's priorities askew.

Peyton was a highly-touted recruit coming out of Pasco in 2004. He had football scholarship offers from the University of South Florida, LSU, Penn State, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, but chose to stay close to home at USF.

The impact of his 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame and sub-4.4 speed was immediate for the Bulls. During his freshman season at USF in 2004, Peyton shared the team lead with 22 receptions for 469 yards and two touchdowns. In 11 games in 2005, Peyton had a team-high three touchdown receptions.

Then came his first stumble.

He was dismissed from the football team in February 2006 after violating team rules. A year later, Peyton was arrested three times. The worst of those charges was felony possession of cocaine, which was eventually dropped.

'It was rough'

It was apparent things had to change. In the three years Peyton spent away from football, not much went his way. He even admits he may have been fighting an undiagnosed condition of depression during that time span.

"I honestly underestimated the factors of life," said Peyton, now 24. "I had my head in a lot of wrong places and I took something that was real good for granted. And after losing it and then watching my friends drafted into the NFL, talking to them over the internet, it was rough."

Then came a twist of fate.

One day in 2009, Peyton was in Tampa visiting former USF teammate Jackie Chambers. Chambers contemplated going to Canada and playing football for York University in Toronto. During that visit, Chambers posed a simple question to Peyton.

Do you still want to play football?

Peyton pounced on the opportunity, sending a highlight film to the coaching staff in Toronto. He soon found himself on a flight to Buffalo, N.Y. followed by a nearly two-hour drive to Toronto as a new member of the York Lions.

"I had heard of him and I had seen film of him," said York receivers coach Ricardo Hudson. "When I saw (the film), I was real excited to have him up here."

On a team that finished the season 0-8, and not getting his legs underneath him until the final three weeks of the season, Peyton still led the Lions in receiving, snagging 22 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns.

"He's got a lot of potential," Hudson said. "Even when he was struggling, trying to get his conditioning back, trying to figure out our game - the CFL game - you can see he just has that raw ability to play the game of football.

"He does have that swagger, that talk, but at the same time, you know he's going to keep his mouth shut and actually listen, take advice, take coaching and try to implement the things I was trying to teach him. He's the real deal. If he can get his life on track and get his training on track and someone gives him a real opportunity, I think he can be the real deal at any level to be honest with you."

Peyton now has his eyes pointed toward the pros.

Don't come if you're not serious

It appears Peyton has made the commitment needed to distance himself from his tumultuous past.

"I think the first time I met Johnny was two years ago," said Rob Oppedisano, who runs the Oppedisano Performance Training in Pasco County. "About two years ago I was working with Darren (Hambrick) and Johnny came out and at that time he wasn't sure what he was going to do.

"He came and trained for the day with us and he didn't do as well as he would have liked. As a matter of fact, he only made it through about half the events. He was just out of shape."

Earlier this year, Hicks was headed back from the CFL to work with Oppedisano and mentioned Peyton was interested. Oppedisano told Hicks to pass on a message: Don't come if you're not serious.

This time around, the experience has been a night and day difference.

"He's been getting better every time I've seen him," Oppedisano said. "Right now, he's the best that he has been. ... His abilities are still going to turn some people's heads."

There's a lot that has gone into Peyton's current transformation. Since his departure from USF, he's had four kids - Jaladia, 3, Jaylin, 2, Seneria, 1, and Joohn, 1. In addition to the drive his children have bestowed on his psyche, Peyton also heaps credit onto his girlfriend of two years, Tonya Gallimore.

"It's not just about me anymore," Peyton said. "I have to stand up on my feet not just for me, but I also need to support my kids. If I can do it, doing what I love to do, that may be the best route. At least try (football) again that way I know, at least I tried."

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Good for him....

Interesting he was visiting Jackie, another one kicked off the team.  I really liked both players and thought they had great potential.

This brings back that catch he had at the Penn State game.

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Wish him the best.

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Good luck to him.  4 children all under 4 years old.  :o  Good luck to him.

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Million dollar ability, ten cent maturity.  Of course that fits some other folks in that time frame- josh julmiste and carlton hill for starters.

Hope he gets it together.

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Million dollar ability, ten cent maturity.  Of course that fits some other folks in that time frame- josh julmiste and carlton hill for starters.

Hope he gets it together.

Both Josh and Carlton are ALSO trying to get their lives straightened out. They could end up in the CFL as well.

I wish them all well.

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another example of not having a correctly fixed moral compass

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another example of not having a correctly fixed moral compass

All too common on Jim Leavitt teams. :(

Stupid comment.  There are problem individuals on pretty much any major college team.  UM, UF, FSU, USC...Not all kids playing this gane are saints.

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I was just talking about him the other day. When I started getting in to USF football he was the one player that really caught my eye. I hope he really has his stuff straightened out this time and wish him the best of luck if he does. If not he'll be right back where he was.

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