McALESTER — For Josh Peckio, McAlester senior and starting defensive end, football is all about the contact. The physicality, the hits, the battle — that’s what Peckio said forges football’s deep bonds between its players.
Peckio got his first taste of football’s physicality playing flag football in the third grade.
“Flag football out here on the field, Cade Harkins catches the ball,” Peckio said Tuesday. “I had his flag, and he spins and elbows me and gives me a black eye.
“I was pretty proud about it.”
Peckio was born in McAlester and went through McAlester’s public school system. He played linebacker in junior high and his freshman year, but he suffered a medial collateral ligament injury in his knee on the first play of the first day of padded practice his sophomore year.
“Going in for a tackle, and Mikey (Verner) falls back from making a tackle and lands right into my knee,” Peckio said.
The injury cost Peckio almost all of his 2011 sophomore season, returning just in time for the Buffs’ state semifinal game against Guthrie. Still regaining the mobility necessary to be a linebacker, Peckio switched to the defensive line.
“Because of the knee injury, they wanted my hand down (in a three-point stance),” Peckio said. “And also, I’d get playing time faster as a d-lineman as opposed to a linebacker. I loved it. ... Contact every play, coming right off the ball, always get to hit somebody.”
Whether on offense or defense, lineman rarely get as much recognition as skill-position players. But games are often won or lost at the line of scrimmage — what Peckio called the “battle in the trenches” — and knowing that binds the line together.
“You spend so much time up here with everybody,” Peckio said. “You really aren’t with your family that much.