NEW ORLEANS, La. — Butte native Kevin Peoples had made several important transitions and moves before this past spring, but the latest change might take the cake.
Hired as the defensive line coach for Indiana on March 2, Peoples made his way to Bloomington, Indiana from his previous home of New Orleans to join up with Hoosiers head coach Tom Allen and his team.
“We had four spring practices planned before spring break,” Peoples said. “We finished up on a Thursday or Friday, and was supposed to go speak at the Indiana high school coaches’ clinic. But things began to happen.”
Peoples headed back to Louisiana, with the intent and expectation that he would be back with Indiana fairly soon.
“I came back to New Orleans thinking I would go back in a week. But the next thing I know, everything shuts down. So here I am.”
Peoples is the son of Don Peoples Sr. and brother of Butte Central coaches Don Peoples Jr. and Doug Peoples. Kevin also went into coaching after his standout playing careers with the Maroons and then Carroll College.
Football has since taken Peoples to coaching at NCAA Division I schools like Arkansas, Arkansas State, University of Alabama-Birmingham, Georgia Southern and Tulane.
Most recently success in the “Big Easy” with Tulane’s defensive line gave way to an opportunity in the Big 10 with the Hoosiers, but the drastic shift in life has made the move the most unique of his coaching career.
“I’d known Allen through the years and worked at similar places,” Peoples said. “It was a quick process, and I believe it started happening about eight weeks ago, but my sense of time has kind of changed.
“The challenge I’m now having is having relationships with these kids that have been at Indiana. [Allen] tries to build a program on the relationship with the student-athletes. So we’re on Zoom, Facetime, whatever it takes.”
Peoples is 800 miles from his future home as the landscape of college football is shifting, but he is undeterred. There’s not much time for hesitation at the Hoosiers’ level.
Since returning to New Orleans, his average work day starts around 7:30 a.m. Peoples meets with Hoosiers’ staff and players, attempting to build those relationships, before taking on the task that is recruiting at a Big 10 school.
“When you’re in a conference like the Big 10, none of this stops,” Peoples said. “There’s always people who will take advantage of the situation, and we have to ask, ‘What can we do to make the most of our opportunities?’
“That’s coaching, that’s life. You’ve got to adapt and overcome. There’s going to be challenges, but whoever confronts these challenges will have the most success in the fall. We’re trying to build a program. Change for Indiana is a good thing; it’s a chance to outwork other teams.”
While Peoples has remained in Louisiana for the past month, he hasn’t especially minded. The preferred scenario would have been to be settled and in Bloomington, but besides being his home for the past four years, New Orleans’ ties to Catholicism and rich history reminds him of home and the Mining City’s personality.
Even now, 27 years into coaching and having lived in several states in the eastern United States, those ties and roots to Butte are still as important as they were in 1995 when Peoples took his first coaching job outside of the Treasure State.
“One of the most unique experience I’ve had was when I first took the job at Blinn junior college,” Peoples said. “My dad and I went and got me a little car, and we drove 2000 miles to Brenham, Texas together.”
When the pair reached the Lone Star State after the long drive, all they wanted at that time was a piece of home.
“We were looking for the Knights of Columbus or, honestly, anything that reminded us of Butte,” Peoples said. “I was scared, he was scared for me, it was a big change. We drove around for a while, and saw a Knights of Columbus sign. It didn’t quite look like the one in Butte and there was a bar called Boxcar Willie’s next to it. I think that’s when I said, ‘Dang, I’m not in Butte anymore.’”
Flying the coop for that first time created an important duality in Peoples’ life: the hunger and passion for his career and where it takes him, but also the understanding of his roots and all the ways that Butte and Montana have played a part in his success and identity.
“It’s hard to leave a place like Butte,” Peoples said. “Leaving your family, your roots. I never imagined when I left Butte that I would be coaching in the Big 10 and SEC, and I always try to visit twice a year. It’s important to get back to your roots. You’ve got to go back because it’s a great reminder on where you come from.
“First of all, I love my family, but it’s also a wake-up call. When I go back, everyone remembers me and knows what I was doing in second grade. It humbles you, and you don’t forget where you came from.”
Peoples’ roots and ensuing journey have brought him to the next step in his career, despite the wave of uncertainty over sports and life as a whole.
The former Maroon will remain in New Orleans for another week or so, before he and his wife Rebecca begin the move to Indiana to properly settle. Things may be hectic in the sporting world, but Peoples has his eyes up and is hoping for the best.
"We’re going to leave at the end of the month, we’ve got a new house in Indiana," Peoples said. “Hopefully we can get the season started on time. Most say that six weeks is the minimum time of prep to have the season. Hopefully we can get back and going, and hopefully everyone will be able to be safe and enjoy the great game of football in the fall.”