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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cincinnati Bengals select Domata Peko 4th Round

Bengals smash back

April 30, 2006

Posted: 1:40 p.m.

Peko gives the Bengals strength up the middle. (Getty Images)
The Bengals didn’t get huge Haloti Ngata this weekend. But maybe they got the next best thing in the fourth round Sunday when they selected Michigan State defensive tackle Domata Peko.

Don’t call Peko a poor man’s Ngata because the 6-2, 315-pounder is a fine player in his own right with an outstanding senior season in which he had 53 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and one of the most famous touchdown runs in college history.

Peko, a lifelong friend of fellow Bengals defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene from American Samoa, fits the mold of run-stuffer and puts heat on another Michigan State tackle, Matthias Askew, as well as Shaun Smith, to make the Cincinnati roster.

Peko also knows Ngata, the 6-4, 340-pound block of granite from Oregon that went to Baltimore with the 12th pick in the draft on Saturday.

“Ngata’s a great player,” said defensive line coach Jay Hayes. “(Peko) is a little smaller, a little lighter, but I think a little quicker. It’s up for debate (that Peko has a better motor) if you’re a Ngata fan.

“One thing you do see is when you see the kid intercept the football against Michigan and run (74 yards) and no one catches him. That’s hard to do. Supposedly all the great athletes in the funny helmets chasing him, and he weaved through there.”

Peko’s size and flowing mane out of his helmet made the film clip so memorable. Athletic? Especially when he leaped over the diving Michigan running back at the end of the run.

“That was the first game my mom and dad came to see me play,” Peko said. “When we played Ohio State the week after, everybody at Ohio State was congratulating me.”

Now already an Ohio legend, Peko is a nice fit in Cincinnati on a team looking for a big, young stuffer learning from John Thornton, Bryan Robinson and Sam Adams in the middle. With Ngata going to Baltimore and Ted Washington to Cleveland, the Bengals are fighting the smashmouth of the AFC North with more smashmouth by adding Adams and Peko.

“We’re the same kind player. The same body shape. We’re both Polynesian,” Peko said of Ngata. “A run stopper. Clog up the holes so the linebackers can be free. Take up two men.”

He’s also a nice fit because even though he played in a 4-3 at Michigan State, he’s got the style and dimensions to be a nose in 3-4 whenever the Bengals want to go multiple.

“I like to play between 315 and 320,” Peko said. “I’m heavy enough not to get pushed back and quick enough to move around and make plays.”

Like second-rounder Andrew Whitworth, Peko had one of the more delightful interviews at the scouting combine in February. His father is a pastor and he plays the guitar in a church band.

“I’m so excited. I just thank God for getting picked up,” he said, “and happy to go to Cincinnati and I’m right there from Michigan State and I’m glad to go back to the Midwest and play football.”

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