Travis Peeples still lives in Windsor, so the new Aurora Central High School head football coach has a lot of time to think while he’s in the car on the commute to Aurora.
Oftentimes he calls family or friends back in his native Florida to chat, but his mind also wanders to the possibilities of the upcoming 2015 football season.
Peeples is plenty optimistic about the Trojans’ chances to improve after three straight 2-8 seasons given the athletes he’s seen among the nearly 70 players who have been regulars to summer workouts.
“When I took over the program in February, we started right away with the slogan ‘Commitment wins,’” Peeples said July 17, a month before the start of official practices.
“We’ve had 67 kids showing up in the summertime and working hard. We’re working in the morning and evening and we feel like we’re working hard to turn this thing around … Our biggest focus is commitment and outworking everybody.”
Peeples is still fairly new to Colorado, as he moved to the state just over a year ago and spent his first season coaching at Greeley West, where he served as offensive coordinator for a team that finished 8-3 in 2014, a year after a 1-9 campaign.
In the massive wave of turnover that took place in the ranks of Aurora prep football coaches — five of the city’s 11 programs have new coaches for the 2015 campaign — Peeples was the first new hire when he got the job in January.
To replace Taylor Calvert, who appeared to be making progress despite successive 2-8 records, Aurora Central athletic director Dan Lliteras chose Peeples from a pool of 25 applicants for the job, lauding his preparation, attention to detail and overall picture for the program as his main strengths.
Peeples got into the building in March when he was hired as a dean of students, which helped him begin to get to know athletes and encourage them to come out for the football team.
Though raw, he’s seen talent he can work with during weightlifting, film sessions and light field work.
“I came from Florida and a good pocket of athletes off I-4,” Peeples said. “The athletes at Central are comparable. There are a lot of guys who can run and jump and are very athletic, we’re just trying to transfer that athleticism to football athleticism. We’re getting these guys to do football movements and cognitively learn how to play football.”
Even more encouraging for the future is that Peeples’ coached Aurora Central to the championship in the Futures League sponsored by the Denver Broncos. The Trojans defeated Vista PEAK to win the competition of local programs with teams of seventh- and eighth-graders from feeder schools. District foes Gateway, Hinkley and Rangeview also played in the league.
“Winning the Futures League got some excitement out of the younger kids and we have a booster club that has just started up,” Peeples said. “There’s a lot of changes happening at the school and the kids believe the path we are on is the right path.”
From an Xs and Os standpoint, Peeples kept defensive coordinator Jamarr Kerney from Calvert’s staff and added Tim Walter — who played center at Colorado State — as his offensive coordinator.
Peeples calls himself an “old school coach” in his dedication to physical football. He was a quarterback in his playing days and has back junior Austin Alvarez, the Trojans’ starter under center last season, though there is an intense three-way competition for the starting spot going into the season.
With still a lot to happen before the opening kickoff of the season, Peeples has already had plenty to smile about as he makes his hour-long commute both ways to and from Aurora.
“The excitement is high from the kids and the community,” Peeples said. “I don’t know how that’s going to translate on the field, but I feel very good about our opportunities.”
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel