Ravens’ rookie Peerman delivers message on and off field

Street Talk Ravens’ rookie Peerman delivers message on and off field

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WESTMINSTER — The pulpit is his sanctuary, a special place where Cedric Peerman can share his thoughts and beliefs about faith and life.

His sermons come from the heart, exhorting anyone willing to listen to his message of understanding, forgiveness and avoiding temptation.

For Peerman, a soft-spoken 22-year-old who seems much older because of his rare maturity, his happiest moments are generated by spreading the gospel or scoring touchdowns.

The Baltimore Ravens’ rookie running back grew up steeped in church activities in rural Virginia, and the born-again Christian felt the calling to officially become an ordained minister last summer.

"I play football to glorify God, because it’s my purpose," said Peerman, the team’s versatile sixth-round draft pick from the University of Virginia. "Becoming a minister was something I didn’t come to lightly. It was part of the journey of my life, and I have a passion for it.

"I grew up in a Baptist church all my life. So, you’re definitely a product of your culture. I’m thankful that I grew up in the Peerman household. I’ve been blessed to have this opportunity."

This morning at the team hotel in Westminster, Peerman has been invited by team chaplain Rod Hairston to address his Ravens teammates.

Urged to share his message by Hairston, Peerman is excited about the chance to witness his faith.

It’s a responsibility that Peerman takes very seriously, and he has been preparing for this sermon since training camp began.

"The general message I’m going to share, a theme for training camp and the season, is overcoming," Peerman said. "I’m going to try to feed off how we overcome emotions, the things that we think we can control, what we do and how we overcome sadness. It’s about succeeding in spite of present circumstances. It’s a great opportunity to share.

"I’m a rookie, so it means a lot. There’s all different types of preachers. There are those that are really loud and get really into it. I don’t know where I really fall. It’s whatever the holy spirit leads you to do and how it leads you to act.”

Peerman’s message was given a popular reception last year as he drew rousing applause at a youth evangelism conference in Halifax, Va.

Peerman delivered a theme about discipline and maintaining high standards, according to a religious periodical’s transcript of his remarks.

“The world says get things first; but the Bible says put God first and he will give you everything you need" Peerman said at the time. "The world says get even with those who do you wrong; but the Bible says love those who hate you and God will bless you. The world says it’s OK to have sex before marriage; but the Bible says sex is reserved for marriage.

"The world says party all night long; but the Bible says there is a time for everything.  The world says as long as I do it and don’t get caught it’s alright; but the Bible says what’s done in the darkness will come to light.”

And Peerman doesn’t hesitate to discuss his faith with teammates, including his roommate and fellow running back, Jalen Parmale.

"Cedric is always willing to share the word," Parmele said. "He’s real friendly. He’ll share the word any time of day if you have a question."

Faith and a strong back are two of the primary traits that were ingrained in Peerman growing up on his family’s tobacco farm in Gladys, a small town in southern Virginia.

Rising at dawn and working until noon, Peerman would toil in the unforgiving heat as the 5-foot-9, 220-pound developed chiseled muscles and a tireless work ethic.

The tobacco leaves that Peerman would uproot from the ground were practically as tall as him by harvest time.

"You pull it off and you walk up and down the field, and it’s like walking in sand all day," Peerman said. "I think that’s where I got a lot of my leg strength as a young kid, 10 years old out there working hard. It made me who I am today.

"It’s a lot of hard work. It would take about a half-day to pull in a barn’s worth of tobacco. If you talk to people who know, they’ll tell you there’s not many tougher jobs in the world. We did it together as a family, and it made us even closer."

Working on his grandfather’s farm put food on the table. And his grandfather needed Peerman’s assistance after suffering a stroke and being confined to a wheelchair.

Peerman learned how to fertilize, cultivate and bag tobacco. He would even tend to the farm work after school before returning to school on Friday nights for football games.

Among his tasks were driving a tractor, watering, plowing fields. In his spare time, Peerman would oversee his own cucumber farm.

"I would get up early and try to get done before it got too hot," Peerman said. "Whenever the sun came up, we would start working."

Now, only grass grows on the family farm. And Peerman’s grandfather, Samuel Peerman, has passed away.

Although the farming is over, the lessons that it instilled in Peerman are applied every day.

"It gave me discipline," Peerman said. "Tobacco is a process. You plant it in the ground and it’s about six inches tall and it grows to be my height. I watched many tobacco plants grow up over the years. It’s a lot of hard work, but it was important."

Peerman applied those lessons on the football field and in life, gaining 3,349 career all-purpose yards for the Cavaliers. He rushed for 1,749 yards and 15 touchdowns, also catching 67 passes for 344 yards and one touchdown.

He learned patience, too, not getting to start until his junior year and having to overcome a foot injury.

As a senior, Peerman was an honorable-mention All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection as he rushed for a career-high 774 yards and seven touchdowns while posting 1,075 all-purpose yards.

He drew increased attention from scouts when he turned in the fastest 40-yard dash time with a 4.45 clocking at the NFL scouting combine. He also registered a 40-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times.

"Growing up, I had a lot of strength and a burst," Peerman said. "I didn’t have that speed at first, but that came out later in high school."

So far, Peerman has made a strong impression on the Ravens with his game and his character.

He has made several difficult catches and has run hard when called upon in relief of primary backs Ray Rice and Willis McGahee.

"He does a really good job," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I think he’s going to be a good player. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not really good on special teams early.

"And he’s got great speed. He’s learning pass protection still. He’s learning how to be an NFL back, but he looks good."

Peerman’s toughness has also drawn high marks.

"Yeah, Peerman’s a tough guy for a smaller, shifty back," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "He’s willing to step in there and block."

Although Peerman hasn’t been to seminary school yet, he has thought about leading a church as a pastor one day.

For now, he believes that his best move is continuing to play football. And he’s determined to prove that teams missed out by not drafting him higher.

"I think God has to call you to be a pastor, and you have to love people," Peerman said. "I think I have that in my heart to help people. Right now, the Lord wants me to use football as that avenue and platform to reach out to young people.

"God blessed me to be underrated. I’m thankful to be in this position. I know God is going to bless me no matter what."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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