WAGONER — Sure, Kevin Peterson gained recognition for his achievements in football and track, but they weren’t his favorites when he was younger.
“Basketball was my first love,” he said. “I’ve always loved seeing how people played it. Before the fifth grade, I didn’t play football. I always thought that if I was going to be good in anything, I was going to be a basketball star. That dream got crushed once football came in.”
Football and track became parts of Peterson’s persona and why he’s being recognized as the Phoenix Prep Male Athlete of the Year for 2012.
He began this adademic year guiding the Wagoner Bulldogs to the Class 4A state football championship while rushing for 1,621 yards and 25 touchdowns in the fall and then won the 5A 200-meter dash at state track meet in 21.47 seconds at Yukon earlier this month.
Peterson said the reason for his achievements is simple.
“Whether it was lifting for football, running for track or even doing drills in basketball, if you put in the hard work and you can be successful, it pays off for you after a while,” he said.
Indeed it has. His first honor as the area’s top male athlete came after claiming the Class 4A 100 and 200 last spring. This year, he becomes the third repeat selection as the top male joining Eufaula’s Tray Bowie in 2004-05 and Oktaha’s Cale Elam in 2009-10.
Obviously, sports has been part of Peterson’s life for as long as he can remember.
“I played Little League baseball when I was in the fifth grade and then doing all of the sports when I got into seventh grade,” he said. “I’ve always been an energetic kid. I couldn’t sit. I had to be playing with some kind of ball.
“I always took a liking to sports. I’m not the artsy, crafty guy like my brother Tristan. He would be drawing someone, but I’d always go tackle someone. Once I got hang of playing sports, I started to get good at it and pushed myself as much as anyone pushed me.”
A competitive fire burns deep within him.
“I think that clicked in when I was playing t-ball,” he said. “I would strike out and my dad would have to calm me down and tell me everything was going to be all right. It’s been my nature to see how I stand up against another athlete.
“Whether it was playing chess, getting in the lunch line at school or sharpening my pencil, I’ve wanted to do my best at the highest level.”
Those who know Peterson well — his coaches at Wagoner — saw this confidence first-hand.
Dale Condict is the Bulldogs’ head football coach who marveled about Peterson’s demeanor.
“He was never bragging or overbearing with his confidence,” Condict said. “Kevin enjoyed someone challenging him at the state meet to make him better. We’d also go to summer camps and he’d find the best receiver on the other team and defend him.”
Peterson was difficult to defend in the 4A state championship football game in which he ran for a game-high 240 yards on 20 carries and scored two touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 23-0 win over Clinton.
“We wouldn’t have won state without him,” Condict said.
Peterson had the play of the game when he dashed 86 yards for a touchdown with 3:31 left in the first half.
“I can’t think of that whole play,” he said. “I remember running and took off toward the hole. I jumped over the (Clinton) free safety and (teammate) Devin Hawkins had a really good block for me. I blocked out everything while I was (in the open field).”
Peterson eventually signed a football scholarship to Oklahoma State University after originally giving a verbal commitment to Oklahoma.
His shot at twin titles in 4A track ended when Wagoner was moved up to 5A this spring by the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association to make the higher classification more competitive. He finished second at the state meet this month in the 100 and then roared to the victory in the 200. Edmond Deer Creek’s Otugo Ananaba was the runner-up by almost a full second (21.56) and Claremore’s Tyler Jackson (21.89) was third.
“It’s one of the best moments in my career,” track coach Jeff Williams said. “I’ll remember Kevin getting beat at the regional meet the week before by Jackson and him smiling and winking at me, telling me not to worry and that he would get him. Sure enough, he backed up his word.
“As the offensive coordinator and play caller in football, I relied on him heavily that night of the championship game. But that last race will always stand out to me. I’ll never forget it.”
Peterson’s achievements in basketball are not as noteworthy as his other sports. Jason Giddens, has the memory of Peterson holding Locust Grove’s leading scorer two just two points, 18 less than his average at the time.
“Kevin was an intense competitor who never backed down from a challenge,” Giddens said. “Seeing him around campus, you look for weaknesses, but he didn’t have any of those. He was a special kid.”
That may sum up Kevin Peterson better than anything.
2012—Kevin Peterson, Wagoner
2011—Kevin Peterson, Wagoner
2010—Cale Elam, Oktaha
2009—Cale Elam, Oktaha
2008—Stacy McGee, Muskogee
2007—Londell Taylor, Vian
2006—Vfastv Locust, Vian
2005—Tray Bowie, Eufaula
2004—Tray Bowie, Eufaula
2003—Solomon HorseChief, Sequoyah