LSU's Patrick Peterson awarded Chuck Bednarik, Jim Thorpe honors

Dave Moormann

LSU junior cornerback Patrick Peterson is a young man with his priorities in order.

When Peterson won the Chuck Bednarik and Jim Thorpe awards last week for his defensive prowess, Peterson didn’t gloat for the television cameras.

Goodness knows, Peterson is full of the self-confidence it takes to be the supreme athlete he is. Look no farther than his Heisman Trophy pose after returning a punt for a touchdown against West Virginia earlier this season.

That was all in good fun, though. Peterson is not so self-absorbed that he’s lost sight of those who have helped advance his football career. Rather, he is appreciative of those around him and said so after winning the Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back and the Bednarik Award as the country’s premier overall defensive player.

“I owe it to my coaches and my family for putting me in the best position to succeed,” Peterson said.

LSU owes Peterson’s father, Patrick Sr., a huge thank you for suggesting that his son consider LSU. The younger Peterson originally committed to Miami simply because the campus was located about a half hour from his parents’ house in Pompano Beach, Fla., and the Hurricanes were one of the first to show genuine interest in his talent.

Before Peterson became a Hurricane, his father intervened. Patrick Sr. had been a skilled athlete, himself, until a heart murmur ended his career at Florida.

The elder Peterson had been an assistant coach at the high school his son attended and continues to work with his son as the operator of a speed camp. The voice of experience told Peterson “to keep my options open.”

And so he did, as Peterson visited Florida, Florida State, North Carolina and LSU. LSU couldn’t have picked a better game for Peterson and his father to attend. It was the 2007 nail-biter in which LSU beat Auburn on a last-second pass, 30-24. The Tigers went on to win the BCS national title that season.

“It was so loud,” Peterson said of Tiger Stadium in a preseason interview. “I could tell it was a wonderful place to be.”

LSU and its followers certainly have enjoyed Peterson’s three-year reign and wish there could be a fourth. Judging from Peterson’s postseason honors, including several first-team All-America selections, Peterson is a prime candidate to be a Top Ten NFL draft pick in the spring.

Even when Peterson is gone, someone bearing his name should be on the roster.

Peterson’s younger brother, wide receiver Avery, committed in September for the class of 2012. That still a good ways off, but it demonstrates how aggressive Miles is in his search for talent to feed the LSU football machine.

If Avery is anything like his brother, the Tigers will be blessed at wide receiver for years to come. Certainly, LSU couldn’t have asked for much more from Patrick Peterson than what he delivered this season.

In addition to four interceptions and a blocked field-goal attempt, Peterson excelled on special teams and ranked second in the Southeastern Conference with return averages of 16.9 per punt and 29.3 per kickoff.

“Patrick Peterson is a dominant, dominant player, Miles said.

Peterson has flourished under the guidance of Miles, second-year defensive coordinator John Chavis and second-year defensive backs coach Ron Cooper.

“I could talk all day about Pat,” Chavis said. “Obviously he has all the tools. He has the mentality. He’s a great cover guy, but that doesn’t mean he can’t tackle and he can’t hit because he covers so well.”

Peterson also has the awards that come to someone who has sacrificed and driven himself to perfect his craft.

Before his junior season, Peterson allowed himself a moment to think ahead about the NFL Draft and his promising future.

“It’ll be fun to be recruited again,” Peterson said.

His NFL team can only hope to reap the benefits LSU did from Peterson’s presence.