09/19/2014 12:32 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:01 EDT

Peters showing he's quite a hitter with CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders

REGINA - The thought of donning pinstripes and pitching at Yankee Stadium didn't appeal to Brian Peters.

He chose to play football instead, despite strong encouragement from an uncle who just happened to be a scout for the New York Yankees.

"I could really bring the heat," said Peters, who starred as a pitcher and shortstop during his high school days in Pickering, Ohio. "I could pitch but I was never much of a hitter."

In baseball terms, that is. On the football field, Peters is right at home when it comes delivering a lick.

Peters, in his third season as a linebacker with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, leads the team in defensive tackles (46) and special-teams tackles (14). He was one of the Riders' few bright spots in last weekend's 28-3 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, recording a team-high eight defensive tackles, another on special teams along with a sack.

Peters and the Riders (8-3) host the Ottawa Redblacks (1-9) on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium.

Peters has blossomed into an impact player for Saskatchewan at weakside linebacker. It's a position the six-foot-four, 220-pound Peters says isn't much different from strong safety in the U.S. game, a position he excelled at over four seasons at Northwestern University.

"That's what the position is built for," he said. "That's why they have guys my size playing the position.

"You have to be able to run sideline to sideline, fill the gaps and play in pass coverage. I was always a bigger safety so I kind of just evolved into this position."

Actually, he evolved into being a versatile performer.

Peters was a team captain for his high school football team, where he served as a place-kicker, tight end and safety. In his senior season, Peters made 4-of-8 field goals and 53-of-55 converts. He added 32 catches for 493 yards while recording 127 tackles and four interceptions.

And just for good measure, Peters was also a backup long-snapper, a position he also played last week for the Riders due to injury.

Peters admits baseball wasn't his best sport and he wasn't much of a receiving threat on the football field. He also ran track but gave it all up in his senior year of high school to pursue football full-time.

"I had a Derek Jeter jersey hanging in my room . . . and my uncle really wanted me to give (baseball) a shot," Peters said.

But he chose football and doesn't regret his decision.

"I had a knack for contact . . . and I think I was always better on defence than I was on offence anyway," he said. "I could catch but I never really was more than a blocker."

Peters signed with the Riders as a free agent late in the 2012 season and wasn't really sure what to expect from the Canadian game upon his arrival.

"I was doing scout team stuff and playing the weak(side) linebacker spot, I was doing defensive back stuff and just trying to find my way," Peters said. "And then I came back (in 2013) an they told me I was going to be a linebacker.

"That's when I started to get my feet wet."

Peters learned from some of the best to play the position for the Riders. Peters was a part of a linebacker corps that included Rey Williams, Mike McCullough and Diamond Ferri and says all contributed to his development.

"Mike was a very meticulous player, very patient player and gets good reads on the play," Peters said. "Rey was a very smart player and had some great triggers while Diamond was a guy who just flies around everywhere.

"I picked what I wanted from each of them and that really helped me become the player I am today."

Defensively, Saskatchewan is ranked fourth in yards (315.6 per game) and points allowed (21.2) while having posted a CFL-best 44 sacks. Strong play on that side of the ball is important while the Riders' new-look offence continues to find its groove.

Sophomore quarterback Tino Sunseri, who is replacing injured incumbent Darian Durant, will make his second straight start versus Ottawa. Sunseri struggled against Hamilton, completing 9-of-21 passes for 88 yards with an interception while being sacked five times, yet remains confident heading into the weekend.

"Whenever you don't play as well as you want to, the (next) game just can't come fast enough," Sunseri said. "You just want to get another chance out there and compete."