Former MMA gym owner aims to save the NFL and football
The effect of Jiu-Jitsu on mixed martial arts is incalculable. Now Scott Peters intends to do the same thing with professional football.
Peters played football at ASU, and played in the NFL as an offensive guard and center from 2002 to 2009. Looking for an edge, he signed up for Jiu-Jitsu lessons, and was shocked to find himself manhandled.
Then he brought his NFL teammates to the gym. Same result.
“These 150-pound guys are just destroying these NFL players,” said Peters. “It was … really enlightening.”
Peters was so enamored of the art that while still in the NFL, he opened the MMA gym Lion’s Den Scottsdale.
After his retirement, the University of Washington hired Peters to serve as their football team’s strength and conditioning coach. Peters used a Jiu-Jitsu based methodology to fundamentally reshape the player’s movement, so they no longer lead with the helmet.
UW had the best rushing season in its history, and far more importantly, not one player in 13 games suffered a concussion or neck stinger. The results were unprecedented, and inspired Peters to sell his MMA gym, which had been rebranded as Fight Ready, and focus on his Safe Football effort.
His aim is to save the sport of football.
There is no cure for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), so the solution has to be prevention. Peters is using principles from Jiu-Jitsu to teach players to use their hands not their heads, removing the helmet as a tool for tackling, and hugely reducing the degree of head trauma.
The Safe Football slogan is “Save the brain, save the game.” It has 29 employees, including eight former NFL players. They have worked with 450 high school teams, plus the Redskins, Browns, Cowboys, Cardinals, Bengals, and most recently the Indianapolis Colts.
“The problem with the sport is our model for development,” said Peters. “In some ways it’s lift more weights and eat more food. But if you’re missing the skillset, you’re just asking for more injuries. That equates to bigger impact and more catastrophic injury. That’s why you see more players being carted off the field than ever.”
“We’re not saying in theory [Safe Football] works; we’re saying we know it works,” said Peters, noting players “generate 90 percent more power” when leading with their hands as opposed to their heads. “We’re giving these players a competitive advantage.”
“At the end of the day, football is a game of control. And most players aren’t even in full control of themselves.”
Seven-year Indianapolis Colts veteran left tackle Anthony Castonzo agrees.
“It’s based on leverage, on generating power and using your hips, and it makes a lot of sense,” said Castonzo. “The coolest part was that he had a reason for everything he was teaching us. It’s all based on evidence.”