Though somewhat unfamiliar with Jack Kemp and Bill Bradley, athletes who became politicians, Olympus High senior Paul Peterson finds himself on a similiar, if not accelerated, path.
Not only is the speedy Titan, who placed third in both the 100 and 200 at last year's 4A state track meet, a record-breaking running back, he also serves as president of the Holladay school."Football is probably more satisfying," Peterson said of his double duty. "I enjoy being student body president, but I love football."
The feeling is no doubt mutual.
Less than two weeks ago, Peterson entered into history by rushing for 337 yards in a lopsided preseason win over Northridge. His efforts established a new best for Olympus and ranks among the top efforts in state history.
"He's just so quick," said Oly coach Tom Larson. "You either have it or you don't. And he has it."
On and off the field according to those in the know.
"He is able to quietly and effectively lead by looking at a bigger picture of things," said principal McKell Withers. "There's no question that a young person like Paul represents our school and community quite well."
While making quite a bit of noise with his skills on the football field, Peterson is referred to as a "quiet leader" off it.
"I'm not one for screaming," he said. "I don't look for a lot of attention when I lead."
However, come game time, he says: "I'll scream and yell to help get everyone pumped up."
So far, so good for the top-ranked Titans. Olympus has manned the No. 1 4A ranking all season long.
"I think he's really trying to assert his role as a leader, said Larson. "To me, it's impressive that he has. He's never been real vocal, but he's always trying to help the younger kids."
Surrounded by a helpful cast, in football and student government, Peterson's commitment to success could lead to the fulfillment of two personal goals - winning the state championship and continuing his football career, preferably at BYU.
"To break the (school rushing) record shows I'm accomplishing goals I have set," Peterson said. "If I want to do it, I'll do it. With the aid of other people, I can pretty much do anything." Larson credits Peterson's confidence to his upbringing in a "real goal-oriented family."
The youngest of Wayne and Joan Peterson's six children, Paul, 17, is stepping into shoes his father once filled. Wayne played college football at Utah State prior to, you guessed it, serving as the school's student body president. However, his parents contend the youngest Peterson has pursued his own options.
"We've just encouraged Paul to go after his interests," said his father. "He does love football, but he really enjoys the service associated with being student body president."
In addition to his activities at school, Peterson and football teammate Dave Maughan operate a lawn care business on the side.
"He keeps busy," said his mother. "He has always been very positive in all he's done."
Not all has been easy for Peterson. A pulled lateral ligament in his knee limited the returning all-stater to just three practice sessions before his yardage outburst. In addition, his presidential duties, which included the writing and production of a school assembly the day of his record football performance, have kept this runner on the go - notwithstanding the typical homework load of a high school student.
"I try to balance it," Peterson said. "But my focus is mostly on football during the football season."
And as the campaign progresses? "I really think he's going to get better," said Larson.
Citing a drive "from within," Peterson adds "I just want to work hard and get better."
And what Paul Peterson wants - quietly and quickly - Paul Peterson seems to get.