Former Torero All-American Gets 2nd Chance With San Diego Fleet

All-time FCS sacks leader looks to anchor San Diego's defensive line

One of the first questions most people have when the think about the Alliance of American Football is: will the product be any good? The guys on the San Diego Fleet say you’re darn right it will.

“I think there are a lot of guys who have a lot of talent and could be on NFL rosters but with the (roster) limit being 53 in the NFL there are a lot of guys who just miss by a little bit,” said Jonathan Petersen, who certainly qualifies as one of those guys.

Peterson … a Poway High School alum … set the FCS sacks record at the University of San Diego. But as a 6’0”, 245-pound defensive end he doesn’t have the measurables most NFL teams look for so, despite being one fo the most productive players in the nation, he went undrafted. His pro football journey can be summed up in one word.

“Tumultuous,” said Peterson. “I’ve been with the Carolina Panthers during their rookie mini-camp and since then I’ve been waiting for a call, just working out and stuff like that, so when I got news from my agent from the coaches here that I’d be a part of this team it was a dream come true.”

With Carolina, Peterson got to learn from Ron Rivera, who was the defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers and an early football influence.

“These are the guys I was looking up to when I was growing up,” said Peterson of watching Rivera’s defenses at what was then known as Qualcomm Stadium. “So it’s really exciting to be able to see it but it’s also an experience where you say I’m here to work. I’m not here to fawn over these guys who I played Madden with. It was a good experience. I think he was able to teach us a lot just in a couple of days and I’m looking forward to doing the same thing with Coach Martz.”

Fleet Head Coach Mike Martz, like Rivera, owns a Super Bowl ring. But like Peterson, Martz is a San Diego native. Martz got a good look at Petersen in 2018 when he was coaching in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and watched Petersen wreck an offensive line filled with players from "Power Five" conferences. Now both of them are looking forward to bringing pro football back to their home town.

“That’s something that’s been missing for a couple of years now for a lot of people,” said Petersen, a self-described former Chargers fan. “Football in San Diego, while it might not appear to be as big of a football city as some other towns, I definitely think there’s a lot of passion in this city for football and I think the Fleet have totally filled that void so come check us out.”

Petersen is hoping his season with the Fleet will be enough proof for NFL teams to give him a legitimate shot at making a roster. So, to recap, good players … good coaches … local pride. Sounds like a winning formula to me.

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