2018 INDUCTEE - LARRY PECK
By David Elwell
The Decatur Daily
Daniel Moore paintings of famous plays in Alabama football history line most of the wall in Larry Peck's living room.
Not surprisingly, the retired Hartselle assistant coach favors artwork that features big defensive stops. There's one that shows a goal line stand. Another one features a blocked field goal.
There's one that honors the 1992 national championship team coached by Gene Stallings. That team featured a dominating defense that carried the Crimson Tide to a national championship with a Sugar Bowl victory over Miami.
When asked if he could have a painting that would depict one moment in his high school coaching career, Peck thought back to his final game in 2011 when Hartselle beat Vigor, 13-3, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa for the Class 5A state championship. Instead of big play from his defense, Peck went offense.
"It would have to be (Blake) Slayton's run," Peck said. "It was late in the game and we were up 6-3. We stopped them on fourth down inside their 20. We get the ball and on second down, Slayton scooted into the end zone.
"That's when we knew we had it won. That feeling when you know you've got a state championship ... it doesn't get much better than that."
Peck knew before the start of the 2011 season that it would be his last. It marked the end of an outstanding career on the football field and on the wrestling mat that leads to his induction into the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame.
"I have never worked with a more professional or loyal person than Larry Peck," said Hartselle head football coach Bob Godsey. "The success we had while he was on our staff at Hartselle speaks for itself."
After starring in high school at Deshler and walking on to play in the offensive lineman at North Alabama, Peck got into coaching football as a student assistant at UNA for football and as a volunteer for wrestling at Deshler.
Peck became the head football coach and wrestling coach at East Lawrence in 1981 when he was just 24. In four seasons his football teams won 28 games and made the school's first playoff appearance.
In 1985, Peck joined Don Woods' coaching staff at Hartselle. It looked like just another stop in a coaching career destined for bigger things in the future, but Peck discovered that Hartselle was his future. He stayed 27 years and served as defensive coordinator for 19 seasons.
"Hartselle is a great school system to work for," Peck said. "I think it is unique in the way academics and athletics blend together like it should for success at all levels. It's a great place to raise your family. The more I stayed, the more I enjoyed everything about Hartselle."
Peck coached offense when he first game to Hartselle. In 1992, he became Woods' defensive coordinator.
"Don Woods is a very innovative offensive coach," Peck said. "I learned a lot from him about ways to attack a defense. That helped me a lot when I became the defensive coordinator."
Peck was Woods' defensive coordinator for five seasons. When Michael Smith became head coach in 1997 he took over the defensive coordinator job for one season before turning it back over to Peck in 1998.
In 2002, Peck switched Hartselle to a different defensive scheme that some colleges had just started using. Instead of having four defensive linemen, there would be three. Directly behind them would be three linebackers. It's called the 3-3 Stack.
"It was just a good fit for us because we didn't have many kids with any size," Peck said. "We had a lot of linebacker/defensive back type kids.
"Instead of needing four big guys up front, we needed one to play in front of the center. Our defensive ends were really linebackers."
When Godsey arrived in 2003, Peck continued to direct the Hartselle defense using the 3-3 Stack.
"I have to admit I wasn't sold on the defense when I first got to Hartselle,"Godsey said. "The more I was around Larry and saw how he was sold on it, the more I liked it.
"Since Larry retired, we've had two different defensive coordinators, but we still use the basic foundation that he put in place for our defense. It still works great for the kind of football players we have."
Two schools using the concept at the time were the Florida Gators and Middle Tennessee. Because of the evolution of the game into a more wide-open offense spread across the field, many high schools and colleges have gone to the 3-3 Stack.
"The goal is to force the quarterback to make a decision as quick as possible," Peck said. "The longer a quarterback has to process what the defense is doing, the more likely he can make a big play."
The concept carried Hartselle all the way to a state championship in 2011 against a talented Vigor team.
"Vigor had 14 or 16 kids on that team that signed to play college football," Peck said. "Most of them were Division I. We had one kid and he signed with an NAIA school."
Hartselle's state championship defense gave up a total of 139 points for a 9.3 average per game. In 19 seasons as defensive coordinator, Peck's squad averaged allowing just 16.4 points a game.
"It used to be that the team with the best athletes won," Peck said. "We showed you could win with smart kids who could adjust to whatever happened in a game. It was a lot of fun to watch."