One would be hard-pressed to imagine a high school running back playing much better than TJ Peeler did a year ago when he rushed for 14 touchdowns and over 1,100 yards for a Broad Run High team that went unbeaten and won the state AA championship.
But Peeler, the Spartans’ daunting 6-foot-1 inch, 200-pound tailback, has already pretty much matched last year’s impressive numbers through Broad Run’s first five games this fall. Following his 254 rushing yards on 32 carries in Broad Run’s 27-12 Dulles District home win over Briar Woods last Friday night, Peeler has already accumulated about 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. He is averaging 15 carries per game and over 10 yards per run.
“He has tremendous power in his lower body and is able to make small runs into big gains,” said Broad Run football coach Mike Burnett, whose team is 5-0 going into this Friday night’s game at district opponent Dominion. “He’s worked hard in the weight room.”
Burnett said Peele has a love for the game and is one of the leaders on a Broad Run team that faces enormous expectations following last year’s perfect 14-0 season that ended with a 13-0 state finals win over Amherst County High on a snow-filled evening in Lynchburg. Peeler rushed for 65 yards on 17 carries in that title game win. A week earlier, in Broad Run’s 24-12 state semis victory over Chancellor, Peeler had one of his best games of the season in gaining 162 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
“He runs very, very hard and really plays with passion,” said Burnett. “He brings energy to his position.”
<b>BURNETT</b> said Peeler has grown steadily during his four years as a football player at Broad Run. As a ninth grader on the freshmen team, Peeler was learning how to play in the team’s system. The following year saw Peeler take big strides forward as a member of the Spartans’ JV team.
“That was a critical year for him,” said Burnett. “He learned to run hard and hold onto the football. He learned to take a hit. He really grew in the game.”
As a junior in his first varsity season last year, Peeler impressed his coaches with his better than average speed and his ability to hit the hole quickly and pick up yardage in bursts. He also displayed his natural ability to make instinctual cuts while carrying the football, eluding would-be-tacklers with fakes and then breaking free for big gains.
He and since-graduated tailback Breon Earl gave Broad Run perhaps the best one-two running back punch in the state.
This year as a senior, Peeler is a leader by his play. He and his teammates are hungry for more postseason success later this fall.
“He leads with his play on the field,” said Burnett. “During a game the kids will pick up on his energy. He’s quiet off the field.”
In August, Peeler committed to play college football on scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh. The Panthers are coached by former Miami Dolphins head coach Dave Wannstedt.
“They’re very excited about him,” said Burnett, of the Pittsburgh football program. “He’s their No. 1 [recruited] running back. TJ made a couple of visits [to the campus] last spring and really enjoyed it. “
Burnett marveled at Peeler’s huge game in last week’s win over Briar Woods.
“He was phenomenal and really carried us,” said the coach. “TJ is probably on his way to shattering all of our school’s [rushing] records.”
On top of being an outstanding high school football player, Burnett said Peeler is an outstanding young man as well.
“He’s a great kid,” said the coach. “The best thing about TJ is that he’s fun to be around. He lightens the atmosphere around him.”