Tuesday, 08 February 2011 22:42

Ex-LSU DB Patrick Peterson Has Plan To Be NFL Draft No. 1

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Ed Staton--Louisiana sportsPatrick Peterson has a plan for being the first player picked in the NFL draft.

"Run fast, that's it," he said. "I want to run a 4.2"

The former LSU All-American cornerback received his Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in the country on Monday night in Oklahoma City.

He stays in touch with Packers cornerback Charles Woodson. Peterson said he received a text message from Woodson on Sunday night after the Super Bowl. Woodson,  the Pro Bowl cornerback and 1997 Heisman Trophy winner, was injured in the first half of the Super Bowl. He suffered a broken collarbone and was letting his protege know he was going to be OK.

"Charles can play nearly every position on the defensive side," said Peterson. "That kind of helped expand my game more as a defensive back."

Peterson had 42 tackles, six pass breakups and four interceptions last season. Opposing teams didn't throw in his area often.

"He's a special athlete," said LSU defensive backs coach Ron Cooper. "To be great in the secondary, you have to have great ball skills. You really have to be a better receiver than a defensive back. He mixes that with being able to cover and being able to tackle."

Peterson first heard about the Jim Thorpe Award from his father who mentioned it was given to the best defensive back in college football. Peterson made it his goal to win the award.

"Once the ball is thrown your way, it's a must that you you get an interception., knock the ball down or or make a play for your team," said Peterson.

Peterson is skipping his senior season to enter the draft. He is expected to be in the first five selected, which will make him a millionaire when he signs a contract.

The past six winners of the Jim Thorpe Award, and nine of the last ten, have been drafted in the first round.

Peterson has been preparing for the NFL combine with his father in Pompano Beach, Fla. Peterson's father always told him his son's grades come before football. After heavy doses of tough love, the son discovered his father meant business.

Peterson said it was his parents' act of tough love that set him on the course that's brought him so much reward.

Patrick Peterson Sr., his son's position coach at Pompano Beach High, was unhappy with his son's performance in the classroom as a freshman.

"He made a promise to me that he wouldn't let his grades drop," recalled Peterson Sr.

But  Peterson's grades dropped the second half of his freshman year .His father waited until after  until after  gaining his eligibility in summer school to tell him he wouldn't be play any football that year.

"He thought I might not let him play 2-3 games," said Peterson Sr. "He came one day and said, 'Dad, we got practice at 3 o'clock.'

"I said, 'I got practice at 3. You don't. You're not longer on the football team."

The elder Peterson kept his word, which was unpopular with everyone, from his son to fans of the team.

"He told me grades come first if I was going to be the type of athlete I wanted to be," said Peterson. "He sat me down for a whole season. It was miserable. He made me come to every practice, made me go to every game and explain to people in the stands why I wasn't playing.

"That put things into perspective."

At nights, Peterson cried his eyes out. It wasn't easy on the family either.

"The neighborhood, the fans, they booed me," said Peterson Sr. "They would call me out every game."

Humiliated and humbled, Peterson resolved he would never make such a mistake again. He brought his grades up and was back on the field as junior.

"It was an honor to get back on the field and play the game I love," said Peterson.

Instantly, he became a star and eventually signed with LSU as the No. 1 cornerback in the country.

In Baton Rouge, Peterson lived up to his expectations, headlining one of the best defenses in the country last season.

"That really made him the man he is today," said Peterson Sr. "It was a lesson he had to learn. But he became a better student, a better man, a stronger man.

"He's a wonderful kid now, and I'm proud of him."

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


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