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Confident Peterson believes he’s among the best
By Ken Palmer

Round three – Western Illinois CB Will Peterson
There’s little doubt that William “Will” Peterson, Jr. can play. It was his checkered past that warranted the talented corner to fall to New York in the third round. But boy were they glad to get him. When Big Blue’s turn came up in the second round, they had a choice between selecting the Western Illinois product then, or trading the pick and gambling that he’d be there the next time around. New York rolled the dice and came up a winner.
After sending their second-round pick (61st overall) to the Lions for Detroit’s third- (78) and fourth-round picks (114), the Giants still came away with the man they wanted. “The decision right there was to pick Peterson or trade the pick and recoup some picks,” stated GM Ernie Accorsi, who regained the Giants a third-round pick, which they had previously surrendered to trade up in the opening round to get Will Allen. “But we’re real glad we got him.
“You’re talking about a top talent guy. He was a blue-chip player who went to Michigan.”

It was at Michigan that Peterson showed that he could play with the best of them. However, that was also where he had a pair of run-ins with the law and others with the coaching staff that led to his dismissal from Ann Arbor with three games left in his sophomore season. Despite being booted with three games to go, Peterson still led the Wolverines that season with four interceptions.
Peterson was charged with misdemeanor larceny after he was accused of stealing $46 from a stripper’s purse while attending an on-campus party late in 1998. Then, in 1999, Peterson was a passenger in a teammate’s car that was stopped by police in Ann Arbor and he was charged with possession of marijuana. The theft charge was eventually dropped, but Peterson received probation for the marijuana charge.
“I feel what happened at Michigan is in the past,” Peterson said. “I can’t even see that kind of behavior in me. I wonder how I ever got into those situations in the first place.”

Peterson’s Uncle and guardian, Frank, agrees that his nephew’s troubles are in the past.
“All that stuff’s behind him,” said Frank Peterson, from his home in Uniontown, Pa., where 21-year-old Will lived for most of the past decade. “A lot of the success went to his head. Kids get in trouble – they do dumb things. I’m sure he learned from it.
“I can see where his head’s at now and he’s totally different. I’m really proud of him.”

After extensive research and questioning, the Giants also determined that Peterson’s troubles are behind him. “We flew him in [for an interview] and I was really impressed with him,” Head Coach Jim Fassel said. “He’s an outstanding talent who’s sincere about doing things the right way.”
“I made some bad decisions but me and Coach Fassel came to an understanding that those things are in the past,” said Peterson, a bright kid who scored 1,200 on his SATs. “I would like people to know a different side of me. I’m a well-mannered guy and I handle myself with class. I’m not a bad guy.” But there’s no doubt that this was an educated gamble by Big Blue based almost entirely in Peterson’s athletic ability.

“We did a lot of research on him, and basically we had him rated as a first-round talent,” Accorsi said. “I think I have as much talent as any corner in this draft,” said the 6-0, 197-pound Peterson, who was also coveted by the Ravens, Saints, Jets and Bengals. “If I remained at Michigan, there’s no doubt that I would have been the first corner taken in the draft.” He played in every game during his close to two seasons at Michigan. After he was sent packing by the Wolverine coaching staff, Peterson went to Youngstown State. He left there before even playing a game, but since he had taken part in practices, he was forced to sit at the 1999 season. Then it was off to Western Illinois, where he was an Associated Press third-team All-American selection, leading the club with five interceptions.
“He’s a hitter and a natural special teams guy,” Accorsi said.
“He has good size, is a good athlete and a smart kid,” Giants Secondary Coach Johnnie Lynn said. “He’s a willing hitter, and a good tackler. You want guys with good size that will hit people. And he’s got good cover ability.
“He’s really a good-looking corner.”

Peterson has been a willing hitter since his early days. His Uncle recalls a statement that young Will made when he was only seven or eight years old. “He was getting ready to sign up for midget ball and he said ‘I want to play defense so I can hit someone so hard that I knock myself out.’ ”
When Will was younger, Peterson’s father, William, Sr., moved around a lot while handling a bunch of businesses. While Will still has a good relationship with his father, he said he owes everything to his godfather, Uncle Frank.
“When I was about 12 [years old] living in Arizona, my parents wanted me to head back east to play football. I stayed with him for two years so they figured that he should just become my legal guardian. He was responsible for me.
“Uncle Frank did a lot for me – spiritually, mentally and financially, he’s really taken good care of me.” Forever etched in Frank Peterson’s mind is when he told Will that “he’d never be able to play at a place like Michigan,” only to later watch him start a contest as a true freshman for the Wolverines. He also has one of Will’s biggest hits – a sideline smash of Iowa’s Tim Dwight – fully committed to memory. “He’ll do whatever it takes to be successful,” Uncle Frank said. “I wouldn't be surprised if he started this year.”
Neither would his nephew.

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