Coming out of Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Florida Peterson was rated as the fifth best player overall all by Rivals.com and eight by ESPN due to his lethally play-making ability as a running back, defensive back and return man. Peterson was a consensus five-star prospect by all major recruiting services after impressive junior and senior seasons, which he racked up 20 touchdowns and 946 rushing yards on offense. On defense and special teams Peterson had 5 returns for a touchdown, with 12 interceptions and 75 tackles. Peterson collected many awards in high school, but most notably: 2007 USA Today Defensive Player of the Year; 2007 USA Today All-America Team; and 2007 top ranked cornerback by Scout.com.
At the 2008 U.S. Army All-American Bowl Peterson announced that he would be playing his college career at LSU. Immediately, LSU had high expectations for the Scout.com top ranked cornerback recruit, and Peterson delivered. In his time at LSU Peterson recorded 135 total tackles, 35 passes defended, and 7 interceptions. As a freshman was named First-Team ALL-SEC (ESPN), Second-Team All-SEC (AP, coaches); and Second-Team All-America (Sporting News).
It wasn’t until Peterson’s junior year that he was used as a return man, but in his 12 punt-attempts he returned 2 for a touchdown, helping to bring Peterson’s name into the Heisman Trophy consideration. While Peterson didn’t win the Heisman he did receive the Bednarick Award and Thorpe Award, while being named First-Team All-American by the AP, coaches and most other sources. Peterson also was the 2010 SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Coaches); SEC Special Teams Player of the Year (Coaches); First-Team All-SEC Defense(AP, Coaches); First-Team All-SEC Special Teams (Coaches); and Second-Team All-SEC All-Purpose (AP). After Peterson’s junior season he elected to fore go his senior year and enter the 2011 NFL Draft; Peterson played in every game during his LSU career.
After an impressive college career Peterson was select by the Arizona Cardinals with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Prior to the NFL Draft Peterson solidified his draft stock at the NFL Combine where he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash, 2nd overall, and measured in as one of the biggest defensive backs at 6’ tall and 219 lbs. In the Cardinal’s season opener, and Peterson’s NFL debut, Peterson returned a punt 89-yards for a touchdown late in the 4th quarter. Peterson’s punt return for a touchdown helped the Cardinals defeat the Panthers 28-21, and was his first of four punts returned for a touchdown. Peterson’s four punt returns for a touchdown tied the NFL record, with returns coming in the clutch. On defense Peterson started all 16 games of the 2011 season at cornerback. As a starter Peterson recorded 64 tackles, 2 interceptions and 13 passes defended. Peterson’s play on both sides of the ball made his name known and helped him earn a spot on the 2012 NFC Pro Bowl roster, while be the only rookie named to the 2011 All-Pro team, as a return man.