JonRyheem Peoples is big. Very big. His high school career has been filled with big success as well.
“Yeah, we won back to back state titles in basketball, a team title in track as a junior, and I won state in the shot put a couple of days ago,” said Peoples. “We lost the team portion in track this year by less than a half a point, so that was a little bit disappointing, but all in all I feel like it was a pretty good year for us.”
Having personally watched the big fella rumble up and down the basketball court, he certainly demands a lot of attention on the hardwood.
“I always wanted to go to the NBA when I was a kid,” said Peoples. “But I only grew to 6’6” so I kind of stopped pushing for that, and figured I better just stick to football. So I started lifting. I’ve always been pretty big, pretty quick, pretty agile, I can move pretty well. I just decided to beef up as a sophomore, so that’s what I did. Junior year it started to pay off. I went to some camps and got some people starting to look at me.”
Peoples did get some attention, resulting in some offers, and a very stressful week for the young man going into his senior year.
“So I went to BYU’s Junior Day, then Utah’s Junior Day, followed by the All-Poly Camp, and had some coaches come after me. Man, those coaches are really good at their jobs, because they’re really good at persuading you, and asking you the right questions to make you say what they want. It’s kind of stressful. So BYU was a great school, I loved it. The first time I went down there I didn’t really know much about it at all, just what I had heard from people here and there. I was listening to those people before the trip and just thought, ‘Nah, I’m not going to BYU, that’s not really for me.’ But as soon as you get down there you realize, ‘Wow man, this is the place to be!’ Then I went to Utah, and Utah just basically puts it in your heard that if you go here, you can go somewhere like the NFL. If you want to go to the NFL then Utah is the place to go. As a high school kid when you start hearing NFL you get the wide eyes, and kind get hyped out about that. Coach Whittingham offered me a scholarship, and he had coached my dad, so it was kinda one of those weird things like, ‘What do I do now? I just committed to BYU.’ So he asked me if I wanted to go to the school, and I was like, ‘Well yeah, I’d like to come here,’ and he took that as I’d committed. After I left all these reporters started calling me and asking me if I had de-committed and was going to Utah. I hadn’t, or at least didn’t intend to if that was the impression I had given to Utah. Coach Mendenhall then called me up, I went back down there with my parents, and that kinda solidified my commitment to BYU, and I didn’t really look back from then on.”
So how many offers exactly did Peoples acquire during his recruitment?
“Let’s see, I had Idaho State, Idaho, Utah, Utah State, BYU, and Weber. Once I committed firmly, people stopped calling, so I might have gotten more, but I was happy with BYU.”
Meanwhile, training has been going really well for Peoples. What has he been doing, and what does he plan on doing from here on out?
“A lot of conditioning man, because I’m not in the shape I’d like to be, and I know how they condition down there, so if I don’t get my conditioning up to par it could be kinda crazy. I want to get into shape as best I can so I’ll be able to do the conditioning drills. I want to show up in great shape because I’ve worked hard for this. I’m not just going to mess around after putting in all of the work in the weight room, so I’m taking this serious. I want to play as a freshman, I want to be a team player, but also a player that the other team has to have in their game plan. I want to be a leader and be a part of something great. I’ve started, now that track is over, a workout routine where for a morning workout I do a little morning run of about two miles, then after that I kinda chill. Then around 4:00 I usually go to the Apple [Athletic Club in Idaho Falls] and get a good lift in, then swim a couple of laps in the pool, and sit in the sauna for a bit. When I get home, I do 100 pushups and 100 sit-ups, so that’s my workout. I switch up my lifting but the routine is pretty set. Tuesdays and Thursdays are leg days.”
The Cougar coaching staff had a battle within for the services of Peoples. The offensive line and defensive line coaches wanted the young man’s services, and defensive line reportedly won the battle. But is that set in stone?
“It’s defense for sure. That’s where my heart is at. I love just being up there, and being able to bust through the line, and wreck stuff. If they ask me to switch, I’ll do whatever is best for the team, but as of right now I’m going to play defensive line, and that’s where I want to play.”
How would Peoples describe himself as a football player?
“I think I have really good hands, and really good feet for a big guy. I’m strong enough to hold a two gap, so I can help open up plays for a linebacker,” said Peoples. “I think that is a big strength of mine, just being able to hold my ground, and being able to make a play when I need to… just being able to hold up the offensive line and disrupt plays. My weakness right now [is] probably my hip flexibility. I can read gaps pretty good, but I’m working on it. Lots of stretching, lots of quick twitch hip muscle drills, and that kind of stuff.”
As for his size, Peoples isn’t necessarily where he wants to be for his freshman year.
“It all depends on where the coaching staff wants me to play. If they want me at nose, then I’ll play nose probably at around 320-330, but if they want me at end, I can play that at around 300-310, so it all just depends on where they want me. I’ll just do whatever they ask and be ready to go.”
Peoples has also been setting goals for his first year at BYU.
“Oh, I’ve actually thought about this a lot recently,” said Peoples. “My goals are to start, to play, and get a lot of playing time. I want to be an impact player. I want to be a guy other teams target in their game plans, like, ‘If we want to run the ball, we’ve got to block this guy.’ So basically I just want to be that guy that people know is a serious player even though he’s just a freshman. I want to make plays within BYU’s scheme. I want to do what I can to help this team win.”
Defensively BYU is coming off a pretty remarkable year, which saw the Cougars produce a top-five defense nationally, as well as a top-five draft pick from the defensive line. Seeing that helped solidify Peoples’ commitment to BYU.
“Oh it was totally huge,” he said. “You’ve got schools like Utah saying BYU can’t send people to the NFL. Well, look at this year! They produced a first-round pick after only coaching him for [three] years. So I mean, if you’re good enough to go, then you’re good enough to go. With BYU, it just shows how good of a coach Coach Kaufusi is. He had him for two years and turned him into a first-round pick and now he’s making millions. It just shows what you can do in this system. If you pay attention to detail then obviously it works. That’s my goal is to go to the next level and play in the NFL, and it has been since I was little. I wrote it on my wall, and I have faith that the coaching staff at BYU can help me get there. They produced a top-three defense in the nation last year ranking right up there with Alabama and LSU and all of these top schools, and you’ve got BYU up there with the best of them. Now I can go there and be part of one of the best defenses in the nation? Okay … that’s a huge thing.”
As stated, one of his goals is to come in and play and contribute as a true freshman. It’s something that the Cougar coaches have discussed with him as well.
“Yeah, they all told me that if I put in the work, then I’d be given the opportunity to come in here and compete for early playing time. There were spots opening up with [Romney] Fuga graduating, and they told me they expected me to come in and compete for the job. So now it’s my job to come in there and work hard and earn that playing time. Bronco told me nothing would be given to me, and I know that. I’m going to come in and work hard, and hopefully earn the coaches’ trust, and earn a spot on the field.”
Peoples is off to a good start, as he is working hard in the weight room.
“My 40 time is a 4.9, and I bench 370. I squat 530, and I almost got 380 on my clean last time, but I’m still at 365.”
The coaching staff is surely excited for big Jon’s arrival on campus next month, as are Cougar fans across the nation.