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Ethan E. Peterson ’13 is a Course 22 (Nuclear Science and Engineering) and Course 8 (Physics) senior on MIT Men’s Varsity Football. He has started on the MIT offensive line for the last three seasons and became co-captain last season. For his stellar play, he has received much recognition, including being selected for first team All-New England Football Conference. In fact, Ethan recently won the National Scholar-Athlete Award given by the National Football Foundation. This award selects 15 honorees out of the national pool of 147 semifinalists, who are selected from all divisions of college football for their academic prowess and their achievements on the field. Ethan is the sixth person in MIT Football history to receive this distinguished award.

Ethan’s primary academic interests lie in the applied physics relevant to energy generation. He plans to complete graduate studies and pursue a career in plasma physics and fusion engineering, hoping to contribute to the onset of economically viable nuclear fusion for base load electric power generation. Aside from academics and football, Ethan is also passionate about playing video games, reading science fiction, and discussing physics and philosophy.

The Tech sat down with Ethan to discuss life as a student-athlete on the MIT Varsity Football Team.

The Tech: What do you like most about the MIT Football team?

Ethan Peterson: I like the overall character of the team — we win and lose with class. We also never give up, which has resulted in a lot of close wins this year.

TT: Describe the challenges of the position that you play.

EP: I play left guard, which is on the offensive line. Our responsibilities involve opening running lanes for running backs and protecting the quarterback in passing situations. The most difficult aspect of this position is staying on your block (running and passing) because you can’t see where the ball carrier is, but the defender can, so you have to react to him trying to make the tackle. This means that learning to hold, without getting caught, of course, is the most valuable skill a lineman can develop.

TT: Did you start playing football competitively at an early age?

EP: All of my friends started playing football in middle school and I wanted to play with them, so I first started playing in 8th grade.

TT: How do you find a balance between classes and sports at MIT?

EP: It is difficult. You need to manage your time very well and devote certain hours of the day to work and not allow yourself to get distracted. Even then, a lot of assignments still come down to the last minute just because there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything you want to do.

TT: Describe your life as a member of the football team.

EP: We practice every weekday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and play mostly on Saturday afternoons with Sundays off to recover. On Mondays, we lift to maintain strength and watch film from the game the week before to go over what we did well and what we need to improve on. We also go over the scouting report for the team we are playing that week. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are when we get most of our work done on the field, showing the looks of the other team and developing our game plan. The practice week ends on Friday with a walk-through to get focused for the game the next day. Most games are at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Home games are nice because we get to sleep in a little later, but most of our away games are within an hour and a half drive which isn’t too bad. This year we are 5-3 (4-2 NEFC) with a huge win over nationally ranked Salve Regina on senior night. This week we will finish up our regular season schedule traveling to Endicott, where a win keeps our chance at the conference title alive and secures a 6-3 record, one that features the best winning percentage in MIT football history.

TT: Out of the classes you are taking now, which is your favorite?

EP: My favorite class at the moment is 22.033 (Nuclear Systems Design Project). This class is interesting because we are given certain constraints in designing a next generation nuclear test reactor, but the majority of the design choices are left up to us. This means a lot more work, but the results are really rewarding.

TT: What other clubs are you involved in around MIT?

EP: I’m a member of the MIT Men’s Ice Hockey team who is defending the NECHA conference title for the second time in a row this year. I’m also a brother and member of the executive committee at DKE.

TT: Describe your general weekly schedule.

EP: Get ready for the most exciting weekly schedule you’ve ever read … Just kidding. Generally speaking, my weekdays consist of waking up and going to class from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., then spending the afternoon in the athletic training room rehabbing and controlling the swelling in my knee until practice at 5:00 p.m. After practice, I eat dinner and start work by 8:30 p.m. and work until 3:00 a.m. on average. Saturdays are devoted to football. I wake up, eat breakfast and get ready for the game. After most games I can hardly move so I rest and watch more college football and tell myself I should work, but usually don’t. That decision makes for many miserable Sundays.

TT: Were you expecting to receive the National Scholar-Athlete Award? Would you like to comment on this achievement?

EP: I was totally surprised to find out I was a semi-finalist for the award and absolutely shocked to find out I made it to the finals. It’s such an honor to be considered one of the top 15 football scholar-athletes in the country and I’m very grateful to Phil Hess, our Sports Information Director, for nominating me. I am also very thankful for having such great teammates, friends and family who have helped me on the field, off the field, and in the classroom, because without them I wouldn’t have been able to reach the level of success that I have. I also have my friends and family to thank for pushing me to never be satisfied. The determination and work ethic that they have instilled in me have helped me keep my focus and drive to be the best on the field and in the classroom.

TT: Do you have any words of wisdom that you would like to share?

EP: My advice to underclassmen on the football team and in general is the same that has been given to me: never be satisfied, always strive to be the best and when it seems like the workload or adversity is overwhelming, remember that how you respond to that adversity defines your character. Use that motivation to make it through the toughest times and remember that there are always people who will help you if you just ask.