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Senior Day a tough pill for local co-captain
Four years ago, Blake Peiffer was a wide-eyed college freshman about to embark on a new phase of his life as a football player for Southeast Missouri State University.
Four years -- quick years -- later, Peiffer, an All-American senior linebacker from Jackson, finds himself passing the torch to the Redhawks of the future.
Peiffer, still stinging from Saturday's 31-7 Senior Day loss to 23rd-ranked Eastern Kentucky at Houck Stadium, hopes the standard he's set at Southeast can be an example for the team's underclassmen.
"Take a year like this, and use it to learn," the senior co-captain said. "Learn from the mistakes that we made this year, and just keep working every day. At this level there's not a day off. You have to go out there every day and bust your (butt), and try and improve every day. Take one thing out, and improve on it that day.
"Just keep this team motivated. Be a leader from Day One. A leader doesn't have to be a senior or junior, you can start as a freshman, and spark this team and lead the team as best you can in any way, shape, or form."
Peiffer has changed little from the multi-sport high school phenom who won a state wrestling championship his senior year. His father, Dan, starred at Southeast in the early 1970s before embarking on a professional career and is a member of the school's Hall of Fame. There was little doubt where young Blake would wind up playing his collegiate football.
"Well, first it was one of those things like everybody wants to get away from home, and get out there and experience what else is out there," Blake said about his decision. "After things started settling down, offers and stuff like that, this was the right place to be. Close to home was a good fit for me, and this team was a good fit for me."
That "fit" proved valuable for both Southeast and coach Tony Samuel.
"He's a great ambassador for the area," Samuel said. "A state wrestling champion, a great football player from the area. He can pass an awful lot of energy to these guys.
"If they follow those players' lead, if they follow that game-day work ethic, we're going to be in good shape."
Peiffer remains on pace to total 100 or more tackles for the second straight year. After setting the school's single-season mark with 151 tackles last season, he leads the Redhawks with 99 heading into Saturday's penultimate game at Eastern Illinois.
It's a progression Peiffer had planned from the day he set foot on the Southeast campus four years ago.
"When I came in here my first year I expected to just play special teams, and go from there," Peiffer said. "And then after that, I set goals on starting, and being all-conference and stuff like that. So far it's gone step-by-step the way I wanted other than the fact we haven't won more than one conference championship. We won the one my sophomore year, but I was hoping to get at least two while I was here. And that's the only disappointment. Other than that, my performance on the field, I'm happy with so far."
His father took Peiffer's accomplishments a step further.
"I think I'm more proud of what he's accomplished than what I accomplished," Dan Peiffer said. "I think in football, in general, you learn to challenge yourself and meet those goals. He's always done that for himself."
Playing in front of family and friends has been a bonus. Dan and Connie, his mother -- who Dan Peiffer said has "made every college game in (Blake's) career -- and sister Amanda were on hand to watch Blake play his final home game, along with "a bunch of aunts, uncles and cousins."
"That was real important," he noted. "I knew I had support from people in the area. I had a lot of people here cheering for me."
Does he harbor any regrets?
"Not a single one," he said, finally managing a grin.