NFL coaches are constantly inventing new ways to find a competitive advantage on the gridiron. In the case of Cleveland Browns’ O-Line coach Scott Peters, jiu-jitsu turned out to be the answer he was looking for.
Peters was drafted as an Offensive Lineman to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2002 and played 4 seasons in the NFL before suffering an ankle injury that forced an early retirement. In search of ways to stay active and in shape, the 300-pound powerhouse decided to try Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
He quickly realized that his size and experience as an NFL linemen were rendered useless, as he was dominated by far smaller opponents. However, he continued to return to the gym and remained committed. He soon began competing and earned himself multiple victories over the years, including two world championships in submission grappling.
In 2008, Peters opened the Lion’s Den MMA Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona alongside UFC pioneer Ken Shamrock. Peters eventually worked in the fight camps of UFC champions such as Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez. He also founded Tip of the Spear Football, which teaches certain Martial Arts techniques to youth football players in order to minimize concussions on the field.
“The most powerful players on the field in football are the guys who get their hips underneath the other guy. Like a suplex in wrestling, I can’t do it with my hips high, I have to get my hips low.” – Scott Peters via Tip of the Spear Football
Peters was eventually able to return to football for a few more seasons and was ultimately hired to coach the Browns nearly a decade later. Head Coach Kevin Stefanski stated that jiu-jitsu was one of the main reasons he brought Peters into the coaching staff, “I think his unique experience as a technician and how he comes at it from a different angle, from a Jiu-Jitsu angle, really is a unique way to coach the players in terms of hand placement and hip movement.”
In 2019, the Cleveland Browns were among the bottom of the AFC rankings with a 6-10 record. In 2020, after Peters joined the team, they made the playoffs with a record of 11-5 and stood 8th in the league for sacks allowed. The Browns finished 2020 with the highest-ranked offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus. For the 2021 season, they already lead the league in rushing.
When speaking with clevelandbrowns.com, All-Pro Browns guard Wyatt Teller describes Peters as “an absolute madman who understands the psychology of leverage, grip and where you need your hands to do certain things. He’s talented at what he does, and it comes from his mixed martial arts background.”
When Peters lines up against his players during practice, Teller explains that the advantage is clear, “We’ll be in cleats, and he’ll be in tennis shoes… and he will just get under you and lift your pads in a way that you cannot move… We’re the ones slipping all over the place, because in his mind, he’s the one that’s rooted to the ground.”
According to ESPN.com, the average weight of an NFL Offensive Lineman is 315 lbs. Imagine having your hometown team’s O-Line show up in your gym one day? If the Browns’ continue to maintain their success, don’t be too surprised to see it happen.