The first thing Kevin Peterson told Bears' defensive backs coach Ed Donatell when they officially signed him Saturday night was that they are getting a whole new animal. The Oklahoma State cornerback went undrafted which was disappointing for him, but he’s ready to prove himself with the Bears.
Sitting in his parent’s home in Wagoner, Oklahoma, Peterson sat around with 40 friends and family watching the NFL Draft wind down. Donatell called him in both the sixth and seventh rounds. Peterson says the Bears wanted him bad and his agent Lamont Smith knew it was a place where could compete right away for a roster spot.
Four other teams came calling after the draft to add him to the mix (Oakland, Seattle, Los Angeles and Houston) but he said: “I saw the opportunity and everything that came with being a Chicago Bear.”
Shortly after the signing he says around 70-80 people were celebrating with him at his parent’s house. Peterson realizes that his 4.66-second 40-yard dash played a role in him going undrafted, but he’s simply excited to being going to what he calls “a wonderful organization like the Bears.”
“All the tradition that they have there is great. They wanted me more than another team," Peterson said Friday. "I’m glad I get to showcase my talent at the next level. I didn’t get drafted like I wanted to, but it’s a blessing to prove myself again.”
Peterson will be a nickelback under coach Donatell, a seasoned teacher who has been in the NFL since 1990. He says the Bears love him for that position and want him to come in and compete right away.
At 5’11”, 185 lbs., Peterson has had success against top talent including early selections from this year, Browns first rounder Corey Coleman (Baylor), Giants second rounder Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma) and the Bears first rounder a season ago, Kevin White (West Virginia).
As both a sophomore and junior, Peterson saw action against White. In 2014, he limited him to only three catches for 27 yards. White came into the matchup with seven straight games with 100 plus receiving yards. He called covering White in man-to-man one of the biggest challenges of his life.
“I felt like I dominated. I can’t wait to try and do it again because I know he’s a whole new beast. He’s a great athlete. If you can go build a wide receiver, you build him and he’d pop out looking like Kevin White. He’s big, athletic, physical and knows how to his hands.”
Another player he saw play often in college was linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski, one of three Bears’ fourth round picks this past weekend.
“He’s a beast. I remember being on the sidelines watching the offense and seeing his number pop up play after play after play. I just remember the mentality that he brings and the leadership not just calling plays but telling people where to go. He took over the whole defense.”
A three-year starter making 36 starts in 46 appearances, Peterson started to come on as opportunities came his way late in his freshman season.
He earned his first career start in the season finale at Baylor with Brodrick Brown injured. His assignment that game was former Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams and current Dallas Cowboys starter Terrance Williams.
“It was fun. I always like the opportunity to compete for more playing time. Injuries opened up but I was excited. I think Williams only had one catch against me. I love being on the field as much as I can.”
A meniscus tear in Peterson’s left knee forced him to miss last year's season opener. He says he’s at 100 percent and is looking to get stronger aiming to put on 10 more lbs. of muscle.
Despite the need for surgery early in the preseason, he still made an impact in 12 starts recording 42 tackles (4.5 for a loss), six pass breakups, an interception and a fumble recovery. He totaled five interceptions and 23 pass deflections in four collegiate seasons.
Named first-team All-Big 12, Peterson allowed the least amount of yards after the catch (45) out of the entire group of Big-12 corners who entered the draft, per Pro Football Focus. He was well aware of that stat as he knows he’s held his own against some of the best in the country.
The 22-year-old thinks his game is only going to get better from this point on.
“Every time I’ve gone to another level I’ve excelled. I’ve competed at a higher level than I even had for myself. I never set a certain goal, I just want to reach a certain goal at this time. I feel like it is limitless. You can do whatever you want to do. I take that mentality into my workouts and into all of my preparation.”
One of the other fourth round picks, cornerback Deiondre’ Hall is a player that Peterson knows very well from the time spent playing with him at the Senior Bowl and their training sessions at the NFL Combine.
Peterson raved about Hall’s talent and is excited to play with him in Chicago. He thinks he’s best suited to play as a cornerback in the pros.
“He’s tall and he makes plays. I’ve seen him on offense make a play and that’s the versatility he has. Anytime you can get a big long corner like that I’d go grab it. I see him as a corner in the league. With somebody with that size and length I’d throw him in at corner.”
On the field, Peterson described himself as a whole new animal something that he repeated time and time again. I don’t blame the guy for being motivated after going undrafted. He has a ton of talent as a hands on cornerback.
Off the field, he is a community person who loves to interact with people and help any way that he can.
“The Bears are getting the same person off the field that they are getting on the field.”
Growing up Peterson didn’t watch any particular team or player too closely. He says he actually watches basketball games the most when he can find the time.
Coming from Wagoner High School where his graduating class consisted of 120 kids, he expects a cultural shock when he arrives in Chicago, but he’s excited. Peterson is looking forward to being able to pick the brains of the veterans and be around all the history that resides at Halas Hall.
Starting his football career in fifth grade as a “fat little kid” playing tight end and defensive end, Peterson knew then that he could be as good as he wanted to be. He was as fast as they come and his team went undefeated while not allowing a single point on defense the entire season.
"It’s always been a dream of mine to reach the highest level that I can in what I’m doing. This is what I’ve always wanted for myself, my family and the community that I’m in."
A three-sport athlete in high school playing football, basketball and track (even soccer as a sophomore), he says that’s something that has helped him overall.
“I’ve always been a three-sport athlete. Playing those sports definitely made my versatility better. It made me more athletic and allowed me to do different things."
Former Oklahoma State cornerback coach (2012-14) and current SMU head coach Van Malone played a big influence on Peterson’s mindset. He says that Malone gave him the best of advice that he’s applied to football and life which has taken him a long way.
“He told me to be my biggest critic. It tells you to see yourself as other people see you. You can have a perception of yourself and how other people see you but they’ll see you their way no matter what. You can’t change it; you can only do what you can control.”
Peterson says that his parents have served as the biggest role models in his life because they go by the book on everything and taught him well.
Flying into Chicago this Sunday night, he is pumped for the next step, the rookie developmental program beginning on Monday.
“I’m excited just to be in that environment, to finally be able to get back to football and put the helmet back on."
As for what people have told him about the city of Chicago, he says they warn him about the frigid winters and bring up deep dish pizza as a must stop.
With Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter the top two cornerbacks, the Bears don’t have much in terms of seasoned players. But last year’s undrafted slot corner Bryce Callahan, Hall and Peterson will bring a fresh and aggressive attitude to this defense.
I like Peterson’s chances of developing into a very good cover corner. Under John Fox, Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell, he has three successful coaches who know how to get it done. Plus, Fox loves developing undrafted players and Peterson fits the bill in this defensive scheme.
Playlist before games – Meek Mill, Drake and Chief Keef
Favorite movies – Interstellar
Favorite TV shows – Prison Break, Wild 'N Out
Favorite hobbies – Cook (Spaghetti is his favorite meal to cook)
Fun Fact no one knows about you – “I’m an exceptional dancer. I’d love to be on Dancing with the Stars.”
Nickname from friends or teammates – “KP”
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