The Chuck Bednarik Award is presented annually to the best defensive player in the nation, decided on by the Maxwell Football Club. The Jim Thorpe Award is presented annually to the best defensive back in the nation. This year, cornerback Patrick Peterson of the LSU Tigers earned both of these prestigious designations.
If there was ever a player that made NFL scouts drool, it’s Peterson. Peterson is an uber-talented athlete who flies around the field and makes plays on almost every down. Not only is he a sensational cornerback, but he also is a sparkplug on special teams. This season, he tallied 36 tackles, four interceptions and six broken up passes on defense. Some might say that his defensive stats aren’t stellar, but it’s hard for him to rack up stats when the opposing offense avoids throwing or running to his side. On special teams, he returned 26 punts for 418 yards (16.9 yards-per-return) and two touchdowns as well as 29 kickoffs for 851 yards (29.3 yards-per-return), ranking him second in the SEC with those averages. His athleticism was even put on display on the kick-block team, as he blocked a field goal against the West Virginia Mountaineers. No matter what Peterson was doing, when he was on the field for the Tigers, he made his presence felt. At one point this season, he was even on ESPN’s Heisman Trophy watchlist, which is very rare for defensive players.
Peterson excelled in almost every game this season. His best defensive game came in LSU’s 29-7 win over Mississippi State. In that game, he tallied four tackles while intercepting two passes. His best special teams game came in LSU’s 30-24 win over North Carolina. In that game, he returned four punts for 157 yards and a touchdown while also returning three kickoffs for 100 yards.