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Peterson is primary prospect in secondary

Posted Mar 14, 2011

If Patrick Peterson wants to read what folks are writing about him, he need look no further than the first few lines of the countless mock drafts circulating around the Internet.

No defensive back has ever been selected No. 1 overall in an NFL draft, but the Louisiana State cornerback has become a trendy pick to possibly be the first.

"I hope I can be in play for the first pick, but it is what it is. The Panthers have the final say-so," Peterson said. "I don't pay too much attention to the mock drafts. I'm just looking to get drafted and to put myself and the team who picks me in the position to win games."

Whether Peterson becomes a Panther or joins another team in the top 10 – the prognosticators all agree that he'll be picked in the top 10 – there's little doubt that he has the tools to help someone right away.

With his impressive combination of size (219 pounds), speed (4.3 range in 40) and skill, Peterson is difficult to escape for opposing wide receivers. This past season, he won the Bednarik Award that goes to the nation's top defender and the Jim Thorpe Award that goes to the nation's top defensive back. He finished his three-year college career with 135 tackles, 22 pass breakups and seven interceptions.

He posted those numbers with opposing offenses shying away from him, and in 2010, opposing kickers started taking the same approach. Peterson went to his coaches before and asked if he could return kicks, and in the season opener against North Carolina he responded with a school-record 257 return yards, including an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Peterson did it all – almost all – on the college level, something he wants to continue to do in the NFL.

"I believe I achieved all the goals I went to LSU for, which was to win the Jim Thorpe and the Bednarik. I wanted to give a push and run for the Heisman, but unfortunately Cam Newton won it," he said. "I don't want to be the next Charles Woodson, but I want to pattern my game after Charles Woodson. He can play each and every defensive position on the field.

"I want to show the world that I can learn the scheme and understand the scheme as well, playing if they need me to play dime, if they need me to play corner, strong safety, rover -- I'm definitely down for it."

Peterson is confident in his ability but not cocky about it, recognizing his skills as a shutdown corner while also appreciating the skills that others bring to the table. He allowed just one touchdown reception last season, scored by Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones – also a likely first-round pick.

"I got a chance to go up against Julio Jones three years straight. I got a chance to go up against (Georgia wide receiver) A.J. Green two years straight," Peterson said. "Those guys definitely helped me elevate my game to the next level each and every time we played.

"In the NFL, it's the Joneses and Greens each and every Sunday."

Peterson made a name for himself even before stepping foot on the LSU campus, though it was a different name.

Patrick Johnson was considered the nation's top cornerback in his recruiting class out of Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Fla. In August of 2008, before his freshman season, he changed his last name to Peterson, taking on his father's last name in place of his mother's maiden name.

His parents have been together for 25 years but didn't marry until Peterson was 12. Peterson is related to current NFL players Santana Moss, Sinorice Moss and Bryant McFadden, but he credits his father for helping him become the athlete that he is, joking that his dad had been helping train him for this moment "since I came out of the womb."

"My dad, he's always been teaching me all the little things to help me be the best player I can be. He was always my football coach throughout high school and little league," Peterson said. "He's been training me my whole life, and he came up with the idea of training me for this moment."

For Peterson, the moment is nearly here, and he can't wait.

"I just want this all to be over with," he said. "There are a lot of good names out there. Looks like I'm leading the class right now, but there are a lot of good guys who are definitely deserving to be No. 1.

"I just want to play the game of football, play the game I love."