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From Deerfield academy to Lehigh football together - FlagSpin

From Deerfield academy to Lehigh football together

When Geoffrey Jamiel and Nick Peltekian received Division I offers from Lehigh University, the two knew in the back of their minds they would remain teammates by the start of their first collegiate season.

They both were playing football at Deerfield Academy in northwestern Massachusetts — Jamiel was a wide receiver and Peltekian was a running back.

In the weight room, half-joking, Peltekian asked Jamiel, “You think this will be us for the next four years?” 

Jamiel responded, “Yeah, probably.”

Two years later, as college sophomores, Jamiel has added the 2022 Patriot League Rookie of the Year award to his trophy case, and Peltekian is third in the Patriot League in solo tackles. 

Peltekian played high school football for his hometown public school in Mahwah, New Jersey, until the COVID-19 pandemic. He transferred to Deerfield Academy for a fifth year because he noticed collegiate scouting coaches discounted his abilities due to the level of competition he was playing in public school.

During his time at Deerfield, Peltekian experienced a series of shoulder issues. Every time he touched the ball and a defender tackled him, he said it aggravated the injury and produced intense and sharp pain. 

“There would be at least three times a game where I would run the ball, get tackled, and I would have to take three plays off because (my shoulder) was dislocated and I had to push it back in,” Peltekian said. 

Not wanting to take any time off and risk losing Division I offers, he played through these injuries his entire senior season. He landed a handful of Division III offers but had his mind set on playing at the highest level of college football. 

Finally, early into his senior year at Deerfield, Peltekian received an offer from Lehigh — not to play running back, the position he played since the second grade, but to play safety. 

Special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach Mike Kashurba said the coaching staff was confident enough in Peltekian’s instincts and competitiveness to allow him to flourish with the position change. 

“There are a lot of people that play football…but (Peltekian) is a football player,” Kashurba said. “I can’t teach you to be a competitor, that is something that you have. I can’t make you tough, that is something that you are. But, I can teach you how to play safety.”

Peltekian said he committed to Lehigh without hesitation. 

However, Peltekian tore his labrum on the first day of hitting at training camp, an injury that was lingering since his time in high school.

“I made a play and it did what it normally does, like popped,” Peltekian said. “I went to the trainer and he said right away, ‘You’re getting surgery.’”

Peltekian got surgery after training camp and spent the rest of the season in the coaches’ box, where he said he learned more about the safety position from Kashurba. After six months of rehab, Peltekian was able to get back in the weight room and was finally cleared to hit at summer training camp.

“I remember my first play of training camp was a blitz, so I ran right up to the line of scrimmage and I ran the blitz totally wrong,” Peltekian said. “I just ran into the lineman, but I kind of thought to myself, ‘Woah, I’m back.’”

Throughout the first seven games of his collegiate career, Peltekian has amassed 44 solo tackles, ranking him 13th in the 133-team Football Championship Subdivision, which is comprised of 13 smaller athletic conferences.

No one is happier for Peltekian’s return than Jamiel. Though the two played together for a year in high school and committed to Lehigh within days of one another, Jamiel’s journey to Lehigh differed from his teammate’s. 

Throughout his high school football career, Jamiel was named four-time first-team all-conference, two-time Boston Globe all-scholastic, first-team All-New England, League MVP, Boston Herald first-team All-Massachusetts decade team and was a two-time state champion. 

He was recruited heavily by Lehigh as early as his junior year. 

But Jamiel grew up in Massachusetts, so even though he had already received an offer from Lehigh, he was waiting to hear back from some Division I schools closer to home.

“I kind of put Lehigh on the back burner,” Jamiel said. “Looking back on it now is funny, because (Peltekian), ever since I met him, was really interested in Lehigh.”

The two met for the first time at Jamiel’s home in Massachusetts. Jamiel had invited a group of his Deerfield teammates over to practice during the offseason, and Peltekian was happy to get the extra work in.  

Sophomore wide receiver Geoffrey Jamiel and sophomore defensive back Nick Peltekian kneel during a high school practice. The two played together at Deerfield Academy in 2021. (Courtesy of Deerfield Academy / Risley Sports Photography)

That one summer workout turned into five more trips up to the Jamiel household for Peltekian, the second of which Jamiel recounted as his favorite memory between the two. 

The night before the two played in a flag football tournament, Jamiel’s parents, who own a restaurant, brought home an entire tray of chicken parmesan for the boys. Jamiel and Peltekian, knowing they would have to spend all of the next day running under the July heat, ate the entire tray between the two of them. 

Fueled up with chicken cutlets and parmesan cheese, Peltekian recorded five interceptions and Jamiel had over a dozen touchdown receptions. 

Peltekian also mentioned this tournament as the moment he knew he and Jamiel were going to become great friends and teammates. 

“(Jamiel) had like five touchdowns a game,” Peltekian said. “That’s when I realized that this kid’s pretty special.” 

After the tournament, the two players knew the high school season ahead would only bring a stronger bond between them, but the fate of their college careers was still unknown. At this time Peltekian still had not received his offer from Lehigh, and Jamiel had put Lehigh in his rear-view mirror. 

As the season went on, the two only got closer, and Peltekian said he always made jokes about the two playing together for the next four years, knowing he wanted to play for Lehigh. 

Peltekian eventually received an offer from Lehigh. Playing alongside Jamiel in college looked to be more than just a joke.  

The two visited Lehigh together in the winter of their senior year, and Jamiel said walking around campus together “just felt right.”

On Dec. 7, 2021, Peltekian committed to Lehigh and five days later Jamiel did the same. 

Once the two were officially going to be college teammates, Peltekian came up with a new joke: Lehigh only offered him a spot to convince Jamiel to come along with him. 

Even after Jamiel and Peltekian committed and were playing two different sports in their senior spring, the two continued to train together nearly every day. The only time they were separated that spring was during practice time when Peltekian ran track and Jamiel played baseball.

After their respective practices, they would get right back on the field to train together.

“Because we’re friends, it’s not like we take it easy on each other,” Jamiel said. “If anything, we take it up a notch because we want to give each other our best and make each other better.”

As soon as Jamiel came to Lehigh, he was a focal point of the Mountain Hawks’ offense. In his first season, Jamiel led all Lehigh receivers in receptions and yards, earned two Patriot League Rookie of the Week awards and was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Year. 

“Anytime (Jamiel) touches the ball, anything can happen,” Kashurba said. “Football isn’t something he does. Football is what he does.” 

Aside from his explosiveness, intelligence and route-running acumen, Jamiel has also been praised for his work ethic, which Peltekian described as second to none. 

Even through an award-winning first season, Jamiel missed Peltekian’s presence on the field. 

Sept. 2, 2023, was the first time the two had played in a collegiate game together. Through their first eight games, Jamiel had recorded 247 receiving yards with three touchdowns, and Peltekian has recorded 58 tackles, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a punt return touchdown. 

Punt returner is the only position both Jamiel and Peltekian have played this year, and so far this season, Peltekian has one more punt return touchdown and 53 more yards. His punt return touchdown is the first of its kind for Lehigh in 15 years, and it earned Peltekian his first Patriot League award when he was named Special Teams Player of the Week. 

Kashurba called Peltekian and Jamiel “apex competitors” and wishes there were more guys on the team who want to produce, compete and win as much as those two. 

“And for the record, no, we did not recruit (Peltekian) just to get (Jamiel),” Kashurba said.

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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