The only time Peete has ever seemed to accept conventional wisdom was shortly after the victory over UCLA his freshman year, when he felt compelled to allow that, "quarterbacks at USC won't set records or win the Heisman." He would disprove his own point, however, establishing 15 USC career, season and single-game passing and total offense records and leading the Pac-10 last season with 21 touchdown passes.
Perhaps Peete's most impressive accomplishment has been keeping himself in the Heisman race despite still playing baseball for the Trojans, instead of spring football. As a third baseman Peete hit .338 with power last season and was drafted by the Oakland A's in the 14th round for what Peete describes as "first-round money." The A's wanted him badly enough to offer a reported $100,000 signing bonus and in return asked only that Peete show up for spring training. Determined to prepare himself for his final season of college football, he declined.
Peete is convinced it would be impossible for him to be an NFL quarterback and play baseball, so he will soon have to choose between the two. "They've always been equal in my mind, so it's hard for me to picture myself giving one up," he says.
Peete and Aikman met for the first time last spring while posing for pictures together at USC's Heritage Hall, where the four Heisman trophies won by Trojan running backs ( Mike Garrett, 1965; O.J. Simpson, '68; Charles White, '79; and Marcus Allen, '81) are on display. The photo session ran longer than expected, and when the two walked into the locker room afterward, a dozen USC players were there, suiting up for spring drills. "Until you see Aikman up close, you don't realize what an imposing physical specimen he is." says USC sports information director Tim Tessalone, "and when he walked into our locker room, everybody suddenly got very quiet. You could see all these big linemen peeking out from behind their lockers trying to get a look at him. It was an eerie scene."
Those linemen will be trying to get an even better look at Aikman next week. If they look closely, they may just see what a Heisman Trophy looks like come to life.