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Peters bound for Canton

High School Football

Estancia High incoming senior selected as one of two O.C. football players who will get to visit Pro Football Hall of Fame.

July 05, 2011|By Steve Virgen, steve.virgen@latimes.com
(Don Leach / Daily…)

COSTA MESA — Alipa Peters has experienced a lot of adversity, from financial hardship to the death of loved ones. Tuesday afternoon was a time to celebrate his ability to rise above it all.

At Estancia High's training center, teammates applauded the soft-spoken 17-year-old who received the surprise of his lifetime. He was one of two Orange County football players selected into the Legacy Leadership Project, a mentoring program that includes an all-expenses-paid trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Peters, who has two deceased brothers and a father who died of heart failure 10 years ago, was left speechless about receiving the rare honor.

"This is the biggest surprise [in my life]," Peters said later. "It was like a dream come true."

For the past few weeks, coaches and administrators at Estancia kept quiet about the good news for Peters, who was nominated by Eagles football coach Mike Bargas.

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The coach who guided Estancia to its first outright league championship in 21 years was selected as the Orange County representative for the Legacy Leadership Project, which is in its third year.

Ron Yary, a former USC star lineman and NFL Hall of Famer, visited Estancia to announce Peters' honor in front of a TV camera and a packed classroom that included teammates, a few parents, coaches and Principal Kirk Bauermeister.

They all watched as Peters stood stunned to learn that he would be mentored by either Yary or Hall of Fame defensive back Mike Haynes for his senior season. Peters will also go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the enshrinement ceremonies in August and will receive full access, said Dr. Casey Cooper, the director of the Legacy Leadership Project.

"They have more access than the press," Cooper said of Peters and El Modena incoming senior Alfonso Cacciatore, who also had a visit from Yary at his school later in the day.

The Legacy Leadership Project, which is sponsored by Newport Sports Museum, works as an ambassador of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A group selected two Orange County football players among 71 who were eligible for selection after being nominated by their coach.

The nominees attended workshops and also submitted an essay detailing what it would mean to be mentored by a Hall of Famer.

"I just wrote that it would mean the world to me," Peters said. "I said it would help me understand one of the main things in my life and that it would help me find out what football is all about."

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