As a 5-11, 215-pound muscular linebacker, Cane Bay senior linebacker Paul Peart commands plenty of attention from opposing teams on the football field.
Now imagine the attention Peart gets when he strolls into a room full of orchestra musicians with his violin and proceeds to be the best among them.
“I get a lot of weird looks sometimes, being kind of a big guy with big hands and being a violin player,” said Peart, a third-year starter for the Cobras and the team’s leading tackler.
What began as a hobby several years ago has evolved into a way to get into college for Peart. If a football scholarship doesn’t pay for school, a music scholarship most certainly will.
Peart is not just any run-of-the-mill high school violinist. He is the best. He is a three-time all-state orchestra selection and is first chair in the all-state orchestra.
“From the first time I picked up a violin, it just felt natural,” Peart said. “I started out wanting to play the saxophone. Then I messed with the cello a little. Someone suggested I try the violin and it was perfect for me. It’s a talent I didn’t know I had until I started putting in the work. And once I started, I wanted to be the best at it.”
On the football field, Peart is having one of the best seasons of any linebacker in the Lowcountry. He had 16 tackles and two sacks Friday in the Cobras’ 17-0 victory over previously unbeaten Hanahan. A week earlier, he made 22 tackles and added an interception in Cane Bay’s 70-34 win against Berkeley.
Cane Bay coach Russell Zehr, who jokingly calls Peart a fiddler, admires what his star player goes through to be successful at both violin and football.
“He has a tremendous work ethic, off the charts,” said Zehr, whose team is 3-2. “He does whatever it takes to get it all done. He’s an excellent student (3.9 GPA), he’s obviously very good at the violin and he’s a heckuva football player. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and he has not put all of his eggs into one basket. He keeps a full plate, but he’s a mature young man who handles everything very well.”
Due to his orchestral duties during school, Peart is unable to include Cane Bay’s weightlifting and football class in his schedule. Yet, Peart never misses a workout.
“I come in at 7 every morning and work out, shower and go to class,” Peart said. “I have to get my work in every day, so it takes some time management. But it’s good because it’s helping me prepare for the future. During football season, it can get a little tough, but I choose to do it because I love it. My personality is to do everything 100 percent or not do it. If I can’t commit to something all the way, I don’t try it. I love playing football and I love the violin. Both things have helped shape me into the person I am.”
Peart is drawing interest from several colleges — including South Carolina and Clemson — for his musical talent. Presbyterian College is looking at him for both music and football. His first choice would be a chance to play football and continue his music endeavors. Peart has done the necessary work in the classroom to ensure he will attend college. What he does once he gets there remains to be seen.
“I never looked at football as plan A,” Peart said. “I knew that music could help me get to school. Academics have always been first. Football and music are things that can help me. Getting a chance to play college football would be a dream come true, but it’s hard to get that chance. I’ve tried to excel in other areas just in case football didn’t work out.”