Pete began at West Point as a left-handed, running quarterback on the academy’s freshman team but during spring practice that year, it became evident that he would not be competitive in that position on the varsity squad. In a step that turned out to be crucial to his developing college football future – but was, at the time, a bitter disappointment – Coach Earl “Red” Blaik removed Pete from the quarterback line-up, and placed him with the substitute running backs on the practice unit.
While running back punts against the punt coverage squad, Pete broke through several times for long runs. As the coaches reviewed practice films, they were impressed by the potential in Pete’s running, and moved him up to the tailback ranks, focusing time and attention onto improving his skills.
As a sophomore, he earned a place on the traveling squad, and scored his first college touchdown in front of a home-state crowd at the University of Michigan stadium in Ann Arbor.
Convinced that his continued success depended on adding pounds and strength, Pete snuck a set of barbells into the barracks, hiding the plates beneath his mattress and strapping the bar to the bed frame. Each night after lights out, he would lift weights in the darkness, ultimately adding almost 40 pounds of muscle to handle the rigors of a Division 1 running back.
As a junior, Pete began to amass a reputable array of statistics, and emerged as Coach Blaik’s trusted, on-field leader. By the end of the season, he was elected Captain for the following year’s squad: the heralded 1958 Army team.
1958 was a Cinderella year for Army football. It would turn out to be not only the final season for Army’s venerable Coach, Red Blaik – whose legacy included coaching the historic “Doc” Blanchard and Glenn Davis teams of 1944, 1945 and 1946 – but would also install the “Lonely End” offensive formation that was, arguably, the birth of the modern, pro-set game that remains popular today.
The season began with a stunning victory over a highly favored South Carolina team, 45-8, with Pete scoring four touchdowns. National attention grew as the team racked up a string of victories: Penn State (26-0), Notre Dame (14-2), Virginia (35-6), Rice (14-7), Villanova (26-0), Colgate (68-6), before ending with a decisive 22-6 win over archrival Navy in the final game of the season. The only flaw in an otherwise perfect season was a 14-14 tie in a rain-drenched skirmish against Pittsburgh.
The 1958 Army team – chock full of standouts like Bob Anderson, Bill Carpenter, Bill Rowe, Harry Walters and Bob Novogratz – finished as the 3rd ranked team in the nation with 8 wins, no losses and one tie, making it, to date, the last undefeated Army team in West Point’s vaunted football history.