Former Husker All-American Jason Peter’s new book Hero of the Underground: My Journey Down to Heroin and Back was released in July 2008 to rave reviews. The book is a raw look at his life in football and how he coped once his career came to an end. It’s a must-read for Husker football fans and people struggling with drug addiction. Jason was kind enough to answer some questions for HuskerFaithful.com.
HF: Would you say Hero of the Underground is more about a football player who nearly lost everything or a drug addict who pulled his life out of a nosedive?
JP: I would say a football player that thought he lost everything. I identified myself through football so when Jason Peter the football player no longer existed, Jason Peter the person was gone as well. Such a huge part of my struggle in life was finding a purpose, trying to find something else that I could be great at. The thought of failing or not having success in a particular field was enough to keep me from trying altogether.
HF: What are the main things you want the reader to take away from your book?
JP: First of all, I hope the book gives the reader a better understanding of addiction. A lot of people think that in order to be an addict you must come from a broken home or from the other side of the tracks. Both of those excuses couldn’t be farther from the truth. I come from a family that has a lot of love for one another and I was raised in a middle to upper class neighborhood. The other thing I hope the reader takes away from the book is a feeling of hope. There are many people out there that can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. They have feelings of hopelessness and feel like they don’t have any purpose on this Earth. Some of them feel like death is the only option they have. I know because I felt that way. I hope people that feel this way read my book so they know that I was at a point in my life where I didn’t have any hope, but it wasn’t the end for me. I buckled down, put in the effort and hard work and was able to get myself out of that hole. You always have to have hope.
HF: When you hear "#20 on the New York Times Bestseller List" what are your thoughts?
JP: I am truly amazed that it reached that high. I didn’t write the book to sell as many copies as possible. My intentions were to tell my story so that maybe it could benefit others. The responses I have received have blown me away. I’ve heard from addicts who say my story has given them the will and hope to try and get clean. I’ve had parents, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters of struggling addicts tell me my story has given them a better understanding of what their loved one has gone, or is going, through. When I hear these unbelievable stories, it really makes me feel like I did the right thing in telling my story.
HF: Ten years ago, what would have been the odds of you writing a book this well received?
JP: That’s funny because ten years ago Grant Wistrom and I had our book (Heart & Soul) on the shelves at bookstores but it never reached #20 on the New York Times Bestseller List. I don’t have to go back ten years to think about a book being this well received, I only have to go back about a month. I never thought this book would have as much success as it’s had. I remember telling my wife that it will be a waste of time for me to do a ton of PR for the book because nobody was going to read it anyway. That thinking is still that voice in my head that tells me I might fail.
HF: In an interview on The Jim Rome Show recently, you said your former agent told you that you'd never make it in broadcasting. Was that a huge motivating factor for you, to prove him wrong?
JP: Not a huge factor. I didn’t want to pursue a career in broadcasting because someone told me I couldn’t. I wanted to pursue it because I love sports and I love to talk about sports. I look back at that situation though and realize what a large part it played in my life after football. I was never someone who had a lot of confidence in anything that had to do with using your brain. That was the one thing I thought I could do that didn’t require me to learn an entirely new craft. So when he shot down that idea, I really was lost in my life after football.
HF: How have you adjusted to living in Nebraska again?
JP: I love it. I absolutely love being back in Nebraska and I love that my wife is able to experience a lot of the great things that made me love this place 10 years ago. The lifestyle, the people, Nebraskans know the true meaning of life…work, spending time with loved ones, and Saturdays in the fall (and hopefully one night in early January).
HF: Let’s do a little word association. What one word describes each of the following people:
Tom Osborne = Nebraska
Christian Peter = Leader
Lou Holtz = #!$%&%$@#$%!
HF: What is your favorite Bruce Springsteen song?
JP: Thunder Road
HF: What else is on your iPod?
JP: Led Zeppelin, Audioslave, Bob Dylan, Cream, The Cult, Eminem, Fugees, Jane’s Addiction, The Killers, Neil Young, Outkast, Traffic, 311
HF: What's on your "Bucket List”? (What things in life do you want to do that you haven't already done? Skydiving, climbing the Great Wall, letting Christian beat you at golf, etc.)
JP: Safari in Africa, Paris with the wife, swim with the sharks (in a cage of course), helo skiing
HF: Who is better looking, faster, funnier, and smarter...you or Christian?
JP: Do I even have to answer? The correct answer is Damian.
HF: Who was a bigger lunatic leader in the locker room...you or Christian?
HF: As a fellow September birthday, why do you suppose people born in September are more successful and better looking than those born in other months?
JP: I don’t have an explanation for you, but I definitely agree with you.
HF: Hank, your basset hound, played a big role in bringing you and your wife, Sarah, together. Is Hank still around and do you have any other dogs now?
JP: Hank is still around and he gets treated like royalty. We have two Rottweilers as well.
HF: You mention in the book that Sarah is a big Ultimate Fighting fan. Have you finally taken her to Vegas to see it live?
JP: Not yet, but we will be going to Omaha in September to see Houston Alexander fight at The Civic.
I’ll end the interview with some questions borrowed from James Lipton of Inside the Actor's Studio:
HF: What profession other than football or broadcasting would you want to attempt?
JP: Race car driver
HF: What profession would you not like to do?
JP: Mixed Martial Arts fighter (absolutely love watching, but you couldn’t pay me enough)
HF: What is your favorite word?
HF: What is your least favorite word?
HF: What is your favorite cuss word?
JP: #!$# or !$*& or I really love #$!*#$!#$*!@$ @$!#*$!*#$
HF: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
JP: What the heck happened at the Big 12 Championship Game in ’96? (On a serious note) I knew you could handle it.
HF: Thanks for taking the time, Jason.
I would like to personally thank George Witte of St. Martin’s Press, the book’s publisher, and Sarah Peter, for arranging this interview.
Part Two www.youtube.com/watch?v=g10TztrgeOw
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