He was highly touted coming out of McKinley High School in Canton, Ohio, and Kenny Peterson lived up to his billing in the collegiate ranks while playing for the 2002 national champion Ohio State Buckeyes.
And now the draft choice this year of the Green Bay Packers (a third-round pick and No. 79 overall) is ready to embark on a promising football career as a defensive tackle or defensive end.
Peterson came into the Packer camp touted as a well-built player with quick feet, good balance and agility, with a burst of quickness.
He made a quick impression on Packer coaches during spring minicamps.
"A lot of veterans are helping me to get used to new techniques and terminology," Peterson said. "The whole organization is like a family and the older guys educate you on your game. Green Bay is one of those places where it's great to play pro football."
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Peterson also developed the reputation of being an explosive pass rusher and playmaker who has used his quickness to explode into the backfield. For Ohio State, his production improved significantly when he moved inside to defensive tackle as a senior.
Peterson played no small role in Ohio State's national title year, picking up 79 tackles, including 47 solos, and having 10 sacks for a minus 69 yards and 20 hits for losses of 98 yards during his career. He also had an interception for a 31-yard return and had 36 quarterback pressures. He earned All-American, All-Big Ten Conference and Super Sleeper Team honors from the NFL Draft Report.
Peterson credits his high school days with putting him on the right direction for college and eventually pro football.
"McKinley was a top, nationally recognized program," Peterson said. "With the education offerings and athletic programs, I was fortunate to attend there. The coaches were great."
Peterson developed a taste for championship glory during his high school days, leading McKinley High to the Ohio Division 1 title with a 14-0 record as a senior. He had 101 tackles with 15 sacks and 22 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
He was a first-team all-Ohio selection and ranked as the top player in the state by the Ohio Football Recruiting News. He was also an All-American selection from the National Recruiting Advisor and USA Today and considered among the top 25 players in the nation.
But the coaches, Peterson said, wanted to make sure their standout prospect kept things in perspective and would realize only hard work and dedication would put him in the right direction.
"I made all-division, all-everything, but to keep me humble, they would cover up my name from getting too much publicity," Peterson said. "When you make all-Ohio, you're proud of something like that. But I was getting arrogant and cocky so they covered up my name at times. That kind of embarrassed me. But it was a great lesson. It prepared me for life. A lot of adversity happened to me throughout high school."
But his coaches, Peterson said, continued to make sure he was headed in the right direction academically and athletically.
"They really helped me a lot," he said. "At times, academically I wasn't doing as well as I should have."
Peterson had academic problems as a sophomore and was required to get his academic situation straightened around before he could enjoy being involved in football.
"It really helped me out. It helped me to stay focused on what I needed to do," he said. "It helped me through college."
That experience motivated Peterson to give some critical advice to high school athletes today.
"I tell them to take care of school first," Peterson said. "Get your education. That's one of the things they can never take from you."
Peterson's head coach at McKinley, Thom McDaniels, coached the defensive lineman four years on the varsity level and had him as a starter for three years.
"For a big guy, he was an exceptional athlete," McDaniels said. "At our high school, he was a major contributor to a good basketball team. He had a good jumper from 12 feet in. He was one of the team's best free throw shooters."
For various reasons, Peterson was a unique athlete and individual, as far as McDaniels was concerned.
"He had a great smile and a great personality," McDaniels said. "Big kids aren't uncommon, big kids who are athletic are rather uncommon. I've had a lot of good players who have played Division I football. I wasn't shocked when Kenny was being recruited by a lot of schools. At Ohio State, it took him awhile to be a great player. But his athleticism and size allowed him to do things in a tough situation. In high school, you can get away with your size and athleticism. But in college, he also had to learn to be a good technician."
McDaniels acknowledged that Peterson had some catching up to do academically when he entered the high school ranks.
"He came out of junior high with great grades," McDaniels said. "We monitored his academic progress carefully. He did OK."
Peterson is in the process of realizing what it will take to be a successful National Football League players.
"The key is being a better student of the game, working on my technique and listening to what the coaches and veteran players have to say," he said. "Those are things I can control. I can't control what I can't control. But there are other things that are right in my hands. That's what I need to worry about."