DeAngelo Peterson has been in this position before.
With one year of college football left, LSU’s wide receiver-turned-tight end can’t help but reflect on his senior year of high school at Desire Street Academy.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Peterson – like so many affected by the storm – was a nomad.
He had stayed everywhere from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to San Antonio to Florida – where Desire Street relocated during the year after Katrina. When the school relocated for a final time to Baton Rouge, Peterson returned home for his senior year.
Finally settled, he turned his focus to something positive.
“I wanted to win a state championship,” Peterson said.
Despite the fact that Desire Street was in just their third year of varsity competition, Peterson – who led the team in passes caught, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, tackles, and interceptions – carried the school to the state semifinals game.
“I got so close in high school,” Peterson said. “We lost to South Plaquemines in the game before the championship, and they went on and won it all.”
Peterson’s strongest memory of what could have been?
“I remember going past the Superdome on the way to South Plaquemines, and we were just looking at it,” said Peterson, a New Orleans native. “Our coach told us we had one more step and we would be there.
“Then it was over.”
Back to present day, Peterson has his second chance.
“The national championship is back in New Orleans,” Peterson said. “LSU plays there every four years, so it would be great if we show up there again.
“My family is down there and will have to go just minutes to see me play. If things go right, then I’ll be there this year.”
Peterson, one of the SEC’s most talked about tight ends, heads into his final year with 36 game appearances and five starts, and he has racked up 281 yards receiving on 21 catches with two touchdowns in the process.
But if you ask Peterson, that was the old him.
Now, Peterson said he’s become the tight end that the LSU staff always hoped he would be.
“I’ve worked every day to become the complete player they want,” he said. “I have always been able to run the routes, but I wasn’t the blocker I needed to be. I am trying to be an all-around tight end. I want to run block, power block and speed block.
“I made sure this offseason that I changed all that.”
It began after last January’s Cotton Bowl, when Peterson approached LSU strength and conditioning coordinator Tommy Moffitt about the idea of bulking up.
“Last year I was like 228 pounds,” said Peterson, who stands at 6-foot-4. “Since I moved to tight end (Coach Steve Ensminger) always wanted me to gain weight, so this year I sat down and kept eating a lot and put on the weight. I am at 240 pounds now.
“I feel good running with it, and I really feel good blocking. It’s showing on film that I am blocking the bigger ends, so it’s helping out.”
Following last Saturday’s scrimmage, Tigers head coach Les Miles praised Peterson for progress made.
“I think he’s bigger and stronger than he’s been, and I think he can be on the field in more sets,” Miles said. “I think he’s a much better blocker than he’s been. One of our more physical sets is the two tight ends and one-back set, and he can play in it very significantly. I like him there.
“I think there is a good potential that he will have the kind of year that will be pretty special around here.”
While focus this offseason has been on improved blocking, don’t be fooled as to why Peterson is valuable to Jordan Jefferson and the offense.
“I always have someone who can get open and catch the ball,” Peterson said. “I don’t feel like a linebacker can line up against me heads up and stop me. A linebacker or a safety, I don’t feel like none of them can stop me.”
Peterson’s also excited for another reason: New quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe.
While Jefferson might have struggled in seasons past, Peterson has faith that calmer waters are ahead.
“Since (Kragthorpe) came here in the spring I have seen Jordan get a lot better,” Peterson said. “I think now he has a good coach that shows him what to do. And it’s his senior year and he’s the leader of this team. Then he has pressure behind him with (Zach) Mettenberger and Jarrett Lee, so everyone is putting the team on his shoulders.
“He showed in camp that he is making the passes and completing everything. (Jefferson) and the receivers are on one page. He’s being vocal.”
For Peterson, seeing a fellow senior step into a leadership role is evidence that this year’s LSU team is moving straight on the road – which could well end in the Big Easy.
“All of us have that mindset,” he said. “It’s our last year here, so why not go out with a bang.
“I am trying to get back to New Orleans.”