Pennsylvania high school football player with Type-1 Diabetes hopes to inspire others

by Dave Mika
EasternPAFootball.com Founder
Follow @EPAFootball

South Williamsport High School FootballJohn Peters has type-1 diabetes. Yes.

John Peters puts on his football uniform like every one else. Yes.

John Peters is a 5-foot-10, 195-pound fullback/linebacker for South Williamsport High School (Pennsylvania), who has been playing football since seventh grade. Yes.

You ask what is normal? This is normal way of life for every day for John.

LIFE CHANGING

His sister was three-years old when she was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. John was eight when he found out he was a type-1 diabetic.

Type-1 diabetes is a genetic condition that impairs the production of insulin, which regulates the body’s utilization of sugars and other carbohydrates. Bottom line, the pancreas no longer produces insulin.

If the blood sugar is too high, a diabetic can become tired. In that case, insulin is needed. If the blood sugar is too low, a diabetic may experience blurred vision, shaking and confusion. In that case, the diabetic may need to consume sugar- or carbohydrate-rich food or liquids.

What’s essential in dealing with diabetes is management. It’s all about being mindful of how the body will react to different foods and exercise levels.

“The doctors really encourage him to play sports and exercise,” said his father Andrew Peters. “My son is aware of his body and keeps control of it. Every day he has to take an insulin shot.”

The Peters’ had two children with type-1 diabetes. Ironically their mother was trained to treat diabetics.

“When he was diagnosed it didn’t seem to be unnatural at all and he was more the same as his sister,” said Andrew. “When he was at Geisinger when he was first diagnosed, I think he in some ways thought it was a little bit special. He was like his sister.”

“Their mom was trained to treat diabetics and was a food service director, ” said Andrew.

“That was her area of expertise. I remember her saying we can do this. They learned every thing they needed from her. That got a really good start with it.”

One year later after John was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes the Peters’ family lost their mother to cancer.

UNSUNG HERO

Every great running back has had an unsung hero who paves the way for him. That unsung hero is fullback John Peters. He’s paving the way for Dominick Bragalone, who deserves all the press he’s getting. He set numerous records last year and rushed for over 3,200 yards and 48 touchdowns.

Maybe John doesn’t get the press clippings like Dom. Then again most players don’t either. But he’s the quiet leader that paves the way with those monster blocks.

THE PLAYER

When you look up the in the dictionary “ultimate team player.” You may see John Peters’ picture.

When he was in eighth grade he had just switched to linebacker.

“He has been playing since seventh grade,” said Andrew.

“I was a defensive end before I switched to linebacker,” said John Peters. “So I was used to dealing with lineman that are bigger than me. I know how to attack them.”

Here’s a kid that sacrifices his body blocking and the guy opening the holes for Dominick . Not only is John a good blocker, but he averaged 6.5 yards per carry last year.

Last year at fullback Peters rushed for 426 yards on 63 carries.

“He’s a two-year starter and is always working with the other players to help them get better, “ said head football coach Chris Eiswerth. “He’s the guy that paves the way for Dom in alot of those runs. He throws devastating blocks and is a tremendous runner. He’s the ultimate team player.”

John may be a littler undersized but has great technique blocking to open those big holes.

“When I open up a hole I feel like I helped my team, “ said John. “I do like blocking. It’s fun for me.”

On defense last year at linebacker John had 38 solo tackles, 22 assist and two tackles for loss.

1st Week

“Friday night John Peters played a courageous football game,” said Eiswerth.

Early in the third quarter, all state running back Dominick Bragalone had to leave the game because of severe leg cramps.

“John Peters didn’t skip a beat. As usual the team-oriented captain did the things needed to help the team score three consecutive touchdowns in a hard fought battle with a strong AA Montoursville Warrior team,” said Eiswerth.

On offense John is the team’s fullback. He rarely carries the ball, but in an instant was moved to tailback and carried the load.

“He has done a tremendous job blocking for Dominick the past two years,” said Eiswerth. ” John is a tremendous football player that does anything his team needs to win on Friday nights.”

In front of a capacity crowd of 5,000 spectators John rushed for 60-yards in the 3rd quarter helping the Mountaineers continue to score. The Mounties eventually fell 38 to 36, but the team rallied around John and nearly pulled it out.

“The team grew up Friday night and the future is bright for the Mountaineers.”

MESSAGE

“Maybe I didn’t have the same experience as other diabetics,” said John. “Others might have thought it was more of a challenge than I thought. I had my sister for support.“

John grew up with his sister who has had diabetes since she was three years old.

“I just thought I was normal like my sister,” said John. “It brought us closer together. Everything she did I wanted to do. She helped me through life and if I didn’t have her I don’t know if I would be the same person.”

“My message to young athletes going through this is, that anything can be accomplished if you put time into it. There’s nothing you can’t do if you work hard at it.”

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are so many diabetic kids out there that think they can’t play sports because they have type-1 diabetes.

Here’s a young man, John Peters that has had diabetes since he was eight years old and has overcome this disease to be a outstanding football player and outstanding young man.

So my final thought is don’t ever give up and you can do anything you put your mind to.

About diabetes

What is juvenile diabetes?

Type-1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. T1D usually strikes in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood, and lasts a lifetime. Just to survive, people with T1D must take multiple injections of insulin daily or continually infuse insulin through a pump.

How is it different than type 2 diabetes?:

Type-2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which a person’s body still produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively. Type 2 is usually diagnosed in adulthood and does not always require insulin injections. However, increased obesity has led to a recent rise in cases of type-2 diabetes in children and young adults.

Warning signs:

Extreme thirst, frequent urination, drowsiness or lethargy, increased appetite, sudden weight loss, sudden vision changes, sugar in the urine, fruity odor on the breath, heavy or labored breathing, stupor on unconsciousness.

*Some famous athletes with type 1 diabetes:

Arthur Ashe, Bobby Clarke, Jay Cutler, Walt Frazier, Billie Jean King, Jackie Robinson, Ron Santo, Jerry Stackhouse, Scott Verplank, Dominique Wilkins

Learn more:

www.JDRF.org

Editor’s Note: Dave Mika is a good friend of High School Football America. Dave’s websites EasternPAFootball.com and WesternPAFootball.net give Pennsylvania high school football year-round coverage of the sport. We’re proud to have Dave and his team as part of our team at HSFA.

About the Author

Jeff Fisher
Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America. Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet. Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.