Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
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MOBILE, Ala. ― DeAngelo Peterson watches the Saints’ Jimmy Graham, New England’s Rob Gronkowski and the 49ers’ Vernon Davis and sees himself.
At least, he sees NFL tight ends doing what he suspects he can do if only he’s given the opportunity.
And after four years at LSU, Peterson feels it’s safe to say he wasn’t given the opportunity in Baton Rouge to show his complete set of skills.
This week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Peterson’s goal was simple – show NFL coaches, scouts and general managers that he’s more than just a blocking tight end.
“My main thing is I want to show people what I couldn’t show them at LSU, I can catch the ball, run routes and also that I can block,” Peterson said. “That’s the main thing I’m really focused on, to show people what I could do that I couldn’t show at LSU.”
Yet, he understands why he wasn’t given a chance to show his full package of skills while playing for the Tigers.
“We were a run offense first and do what we can to win the game and if running was the way we were going to win the game, that’s how we was going to win the game – run and play good defense,” Peterson said.
But where he is now is a far cry from where he was 5 ½ years ago.
Then he was rescuing his family on his back from the floods following Hurricane Katrina that buried his family’s New Orleans East house in several feet of water and sludge.
Now he’s preparing to become his mother’s first child with a college degree and hopefully a long future as a professional football player.
It’s the former that he realizes is the most important part.
“I feel like it’s important to me because football is something that don’t last long,” Peterson said. “I’m the only child of my momma that graduated from high school and had the opportunity to go to college. I’m not going to stop now even though I’ve got 15 hours left. I tried to explain my teachers for them to give me the opportunity to graduate.”
Nevertheless, Peterson will have a chance to use his athletic skills to make a living first.
When he sees Graham and Gronkowski and Davis, he sees players who opened the door for him into the NFL.
“I think I’m an unbelievable route runner,” Peterson said. “I think I can catch the ball. I think I can do the same thing they’re doing.”
Those are traits his high school coach, Mickey Joseph, saw early.
“Good hands and he ran good routes,” said Joseph, now the head coach at Langston University in Oklahoma. “It just happened that LSU asked him to do something for the team and the kid did it for team. I think when they work him out and they put him outside, they’re going to see he can play outside.”
Joseph said he has known since Peterson’s sophomore year in high school that the tight end was NFL material.
All he needed at that was to shore up the mental aspect of the game.
Then Katrina struck, taking care of Peterson’s maturity.
“After Katrina, I just seen a kid just really grow up,” Joseph said. “Before he was like any other high school kid. After that, you seen him really grew up and really take control of the football team and really be a leader his junior year when everything got settled in.”
At Desire Street Academy, where Peterson played, Joseph asked him to do a lot, ranging from defensive end to free safety to tight end to receiver.
That experience could help him, as it did at LSU, where he did whatever he was asked to help the team.
In four years with the Tigers, Peterson caught only 39 passes for 459 yards and three touchdowns. His senior season he caught 18 passes for 179 yards and a score, including one catch for seven yards in the BCS title game.
Saturday, he’s looking to show folks he’s more than a silent observer on the field.
“Big games I did show up in, I showed them I could catch, I showed them I could block, I showed them I could be a tight end in the NFL,” Peterson said.