This marks the 30th anniversary of USA TODAY recognizing the nation's top high school athletes. As we prepare to unveil the 2012 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Football Team at the end of the season, we'll dig into the archives and check in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades. This week’s player is Patrick Peterson, now a cornerback with the Arizona Cardinals. He was named the All-USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 while at Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.) and at the time was known as Patrick Johnson.
The notification that Patrick Peterson got when he was named the 2007 ALL-USA defensive Player of the Year is at his grandmother’s house in Pompano Beach, Fla., along with the rest of the shrine to Peterson’s football career.
“I was at her house when I got the notification letter saying congratulations,” Peterson said. “It was a huge honor. She has everything, all my letters from colleges in about four or five boxes, all my trophies and MVP awards. Grandparents never seem to throw anything away.”
Peterson keeps adding to the awards. He made the Pro Bowl last season as a rookie with the Cardinals, tying an NFL record with four punt returns for touchdowns and scoring a 34-yard touchdown on his first interception, off a pass from San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
“I definitely remember every bit of that play,” Peterson said. “We were in a defense made for the play. I believe the pass was intended for Antonio Gates.”
Peterson joined the Cardinals as a 2011 first-round pick after playing for three years at Louisiana State. He said he needs 21 credits to graduate.
One reason he adapted so quickly to the NFL is he could pick the brain of his cousin, Bryant McFadden, who played for seven years in the league before being cut last year by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“He had been there and done that,” Peteson said. “We use the same scheme as the Steelers and since he had been in the Pittsburgh scheme so long, he knew the ins and outs. I had the opportunity last year to stay back home during the lockout and yet have the advantage of learning the defense.”
Peterson could some day be joined by more relatives in the NFL. His younger brother, Avery Johnson, was signed by LSU last spring but instead will get an extra year of prep school this fall. Another cousin, Trevonte McFadden, is a four-star senior receiver at Ely this season.
“It’s kind of hard for me to follow (Ely) football on West Coast time, but I still have some connections when my grandfather or dad goes out for the game.”
Playing in the NFL is a long way from playing Friday nights in Pompano Beach.
“The biggest difference is what I’m getting exposed to,” Peterson said. “It’s all in the growing. It’s truly a blessing to be here. The feedback you get from fans in the NFL is what I love to see.”