Prairie’s new football coach always knew this was his calling
BRUSH PRAIRIE – It has been nearly a week now since the announcement, but not much has changed for Mike Peck.
Yes, he will become the new head football coach at Prairie High School, pending school board approval, and yes, this will be his first head coaching job.
But he is 30 years old now, which means he has been preparing for this moment for, oh, probably more than 25 years.
We have heard athletes talk about how a sport is their life. Well, for Mike Peck, it really has been his life.
The grandson of a coach. The son of a coach.
Peck was a youngster who dreamed of playing on Friday nights. Then on Saturdays in college.
He grew up thinking beyond his playing days, too. He wanted to take in every detail of every drill, then learn how he himself could apply those drills to the next wave of athletes.
To be honest, he had hoped to coach college football. Then he realized how special it was to be a school teacher and a coach.
After excelling as an assistant coach, including six seasons at Battle Ground coaching under his father, and then after one year as an assistant at Prairie, Mike Peck has earned his shot.
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” he said of the game. “My first memories are of being under the lights, looking at the players and thinking how cool they were. Now I’m a coach, and there’s not another job I’d want to do or have.”
Now, he said, he is charge of teaching players the correct process to go about to achieve their own dreams. On the football field and off.
“Intentional hard work over a long period of time equals success,” he said.
Peck’s journey to Prairie might not have been particularly long. He has been an assistant coach at three high schools over nine seasons. But he also has had some interesting detours along the way.
For nearly two months, he was an assistant coach at Central Washington University. He also spent two seasons as a compliance officer for the Portland Thunder, an arena league team.
“I got paid to watch football,” he said of that gig.
He also got to pick the brains of professional athletes, guys who had been in NFL camps, guys who still had the dream of making the big-time, some who would go on to the Canadian Football League, too.
At every stop along the way, Peck has tried to learn from those around him.
He shined at R.A. Long High School, graduating in 2006 and headed to West Hills Junior College in California before making his way to Whitworth in Spokane.
While still in college, he got his first assistant job, working at East Valley High School. He was the quarterbacks coach the first year, then the passing game coordinator the second year. East Valley made a run to the Tacoma Dome that second season.
“I was 22 and calling plays in the state semifinals,” Peck said.
His peers told him not to take it for granted. Some coaches go their entire careers without making it that far.
That was the fall of 2010, the first year Larry Peck was the head coach at Battle Ground. That offseason, Larry asked his son to join him on staff as the offensive coordinator.
“I didn’t really know Battle Ground,” Mike said. “How many people get the opportunity to coach with their dad? I decided to move to Battle Ground and help build a program.”
Together, the Pecks helped put together one of the best teams in school history.
The first couple of seasons, the Tigers were more run oriented, with a great back and a strong offensive line. But as they looked forward, the coaches noticed a young quarterback and a string of talented receivers.
“My dad said, ‘If you want to design an offense that throws 50 times a game, I’m OK with that.’ That’s all I needed to know,” Mike Peck said.
Air Battle Ground was clear for take-off.
The team set school and league passing records and in 2015 made the state playoffs for the first time since 1979. The Tigers went 15-5 in the final two years with Larry as the head coach, with an offense that soared.
Larry Peck resigned after the 2016 season, and Mike Peck, a teacher at Battle Ground, resigned his coaching duties in order to pursue his dream at the time.
Central Washington had an opening on its staff and was impressed with Mike Peck’s abilities. He got the job as the wide receivers coach.
Those two months were crazy with the schedule. Peck was committed to finishing the school year as a teacher at Battle Ground but also had to be at spring drills in Ellensburg. Peck managed his time and commuted.
Assistant coaches in college football, at least until they make it to a large program, do not get paid much. Peck said he was willing to take the pay cut in order to chase his dream. However, the more he thought about it, he realized he was going to miss being a teacher.
He let go of the college football dream in order to pursue the dream job he already had, with the potential to one day become a head coach in high school.
Peck did not have to wait too long. Kevin Baker was looking for a new offensive mind on his staff at Prairie. Peck joined the Falcons this past season. He also started teaching at Prairie this fall.
When Baker resigned in November, Peck felt he was ready.
“I was impressed with how thorough it was,” Peck said of the interview process. “I could tell they wanted to find the best person for the job. I felt I had to prove myself, even though I was in district. I appreciate how they went about it. Just fortunate how it worked out.”
Now he has the title: Mike Peck, head coach.
That puts a smile on his face, but he said not much has changed yet.
“I’ve always knew my goal was to be a head coach. When I was an assistant coach, I tried to think like a head coach. Look at the big picture. Understand the situations. There hasn’t been a big transition in that sense,” Peck said.
“Eventually, you know it’s time to take the next step and try to build a program your way. That’s what I’m excited about.”
The first step for him is to find the right people to fill out his staff.
“A head coach is only as good as his assistants,” Peck said.
He wants his players to know that this experience will be measured by much more than success on a football field.
“Football is a microcosm of life. If you want to be successful, there are certain ways of doing things.”
Mike Peck has learned those lessons all of his life, through a game he loves.