MESA, Ariz. -- Patrick Peterson stood near the back of his favorite car, a silver, custom-built 1973 Chevrolet Caprice, admiring his most prized possession.
His portfolio of cars sat parked behind him.
For most, it would be called a collection, a tribute to American muscle cars -- on steroids -- almost all Chevrolets, most from the late 1960s and early 1970s, with a bit of luxury mixed in.
But to Peterson, the Arizona Cardinals' six-time Pro Bowl cornerback, the 12 cars that sat parked in his garage, with two more outside, were an investment.
Twenty years after he watched his father's best friend rebuild a 1972 Nova, sparking a love affair with cars, Peterson turned that passion into a business.
He buys, he sells, he rebuilds, he consults, and he ships. And Peterson has the money to buy most any car he wants.
His car portfolio is worth more than $2 million, a long way from where it started with just three cars bought during Peterson's rookie contract, which began when he was drafted fifth overall in 2011. His cars have cost him anywhere from $12,000 to in excess of $300,000. When he signed a five-year extension in 2014 that could be worth as much as $70 million with $48 million guaranteed, Peterson expanded his collection to where it is today -- 14 cars housed in an unmarked 2,700-square-foot garage in Mesa, Arizona. He has already seen a return on investment. His collection has already appreciated from $1.7 million a couple years ago.
But the 27-year-old is smart about his collecting.
"My thought process of buying these cars is totally different from other car buyers -- other young car buyers," Peterson said. "I look at my cars as an investment. [A lot of] these cars I have in here are Chevys and all cars that are going to appreciate their values."
Take his 2013 Ferrari 458, for example. It's one of three white carbon-fiber Ferraris with a red interior in existence, Peterson said. When Peterson bought it for $380,000, it had 1,500 miles on it. If Peterson ever decides to sell his collection, that's one of the cars he thinks he can get back full value from.
"I thought it was a no-brainer for me to start a collection to where, if that day comes, to where I'm not enjoying my hobby anymore, I can sell these cars and not only get close to the value of what I put in it, I know I'm going to get something back," Peterson said. "It's not a waste of money or me throwing money away."
It does take a lot of self control, though. With help from Matt Myers, who owns Kandy Shop Creations and has rebuilt and customized all of Peterson's cars, Peterson has evolved as a car buyer.
"The things that you're buying now, they're actually worth really good money instead of just buying something because you wanted it," Myers said. "Now you're researching, like a normal person would buy a car. Pat knows what he likes.
"I'm impressed, but he's a smart guy. He understands the game, period. It's just as much as like playing football. You study everything you want to know. When he's buying these things, he's also realizing that they're worth money, 'If I get these things, then I get to enjoy them.'"
One major difference Myers notices is that, compared to some of his other wealthy customers, Peterson doesn't buy just because he can.
"And then you have the buyer's remorse of, not that you couldn't spend the money, but, 'Oh my God, I can't believe I just did that, what's wrong with me?'" Myers said.
Peterson admits he's tempted every year when car companies release their latest models. To collect smart, he said, is to be strategic.
Sometimes, though, Peterson knows what he wants and gets it. He bought a 2017 Camaro for $98,000 because it was the 50th anniversary edition and the perfect bookend for Peterson's 1967 Camaro.
For the most part, though, Peterson is picky.
"You really have to do your homework on it," Peterson said. "You have to really look up under there to see how old is the car? Did they do any other restorations to it? Is there any bonding glue on it? Is the shell of the car any good? Is it rusted out? Is the motor any good? Will I have to change out the motor?
"Especially with these old cars, so much comes with it that a lot of guys don't know about, and that's why I say, 'Young car buyers.' Young car buyers may buy an old-school car or buy an old car but really don't understand the work that it takes to put in the car so that car will be able to function and drive every day."
That's something Peterson learned, in part, from Myers.
Peterson's at a point where he can evaluate a car on his own, decide if it needs work and figure out if it's worth buying. But that took him four years to get there.
"I think it came with just seeing so many cars, just being a car guy in general," Peterson said. "It's almost like being a football player. If you want to be good at it, you have to do your due diligence. You have to put in that extra work. You have put in the time to be one of the best or someone that wants to be remembered.
"Once I fall in love with something, or if I want to do something the right way, I'm going to do everything I can to make sure I'm on top of my game, make sure I'm on top of my knowledge to where, sure, no one can get one over on me or no one can gyp me out of what I think that costs or the price of the object or whatever it may take to fix or build these cars."
One of Peterson's sticking points is the drivability of his cars. He said he can drive the 1973 Caprice anywhere from Las Vegas to Florida.
But if he can't drive one of his cars cross-country, Peterson started his own transport service to do it for him, Lockdown Transportation -- a nod in name to his primary job as a shutdown corner.
It's common for players on other teams to approach Peterson after a game, telling the three-time All Pro they saw his cars on Instagram and wanting to know where they could get one. He'll get text messages throughout the season from guys around the league asking where they can get parts for their cars or get them fixed, or just asking for advice.
Throughout his conversations, Peterson realized there was a need for a transportation service. After each NFL season, there's a mad dash of players trying to ship their cars home. Peterson has experienced it, and when he couldn't find a transporter or it was booked, Peterson got frustrated.
Lockdown Transportation was created to solve that problem. The business began in March but it took him six months to get all the paperwork filed because he'll be doing business across state lines. His first customer was Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford, who did business with Lockdown Transportation about a month ago.
Peterson's business aspirations in the automotive field extend beyond his transport company. He's also building a car dealership and is in the process of coming together with Myers on the P2 Kandy Shop, a similar concept to Myers' shop.
"This is not just about collecting cars," Peterson said. "This is a business. This is not just throwing away money, and Arizona is a perfect place for me to do this. The weather is always nice. You always see nice cars. You have car auctions here three or four times a year.
"So, all of these ideas finally come together, and I'm happy to finally see it come to fruition."
But Peterson wouldn't be building a small automotive conglomerate if it wasn't for watching his father's best friend build cars back home in South Florida.
Peterson soaked in every move his father's friend made, rebuilding the Nova, from concept to completion.
"The thought process and just the end result, just seeing that excitement on his face when he was done with his car, he seemed like it was his child," Peterson said. "He basically did everything to it. The way he wanted it to look, the way he wanted it to sound. That was all his creation. Seeing that excitement, seeing that joy, I wanted to feel that as well."
Peterson's first car was an "ugly ass" purple Dodge Intrepid that his father bought him. Patrick Peterson Sr. had told his son he'd buy him a car going into his junior year of high school. That also happened to be the year after Peterson Sr. held Patrick out of football because of his grades. To this day, Patrick still feels like his dad was "pulling a prank" on him because of how ugly Peterson thought his car was.
On top of its looks, the car was a lemon, Patrick said.
"I couldn't drive it over 20 minutes without it getting hot," Peterson said. "When that car ended up blowing up and I blew a couple of head gaskets, I ended up getting a 2001 Grand Marquis Mercury, so I got upgraded."
And he has been upgrading ever since.
The first car that Peterson bought was a red 2010 Camaro in February of his junior year at LSU soon after he declared his eligibility for the NFL draft and signed with an agent. It currently sits in the corner of his garage as he decides its fate. He may swap out the engine with the 2017 Camaro's, strip it and rebuild it or simply junk it.
One of the first cars in Peterson's collection also taught him a valuable lesson in 2012. He had met Myers about four months earlier, after Myers painted Peterson's Banshee motorcycle, Peterson's first custom project. Peterson loved the details of Myers' paint job, especially how the gold sparkle glittered in the Arizona sun.
Peterson walked over to Myers' shop next door from where he got the Banshee, thinking Myers was just a painter. The two struck up a friendship and Peterson learned about Myers' custom body work.
Peterson had bought a Chevrolet Chevelle that wouldn't last more than 20 minutes without breaking down. He brought it to Myers, who diagnosed it with a bad fuel cell and poorly designed rear end.
"He looked at it, and he said, 'Oh man, these guys got you,'" Peterson said with a chuckle. "He ended up telling me all the things I needed to do with that car. He fixed it up for me, and I ended up driving it around for a little bit. I was impressed with some of the minor work that he did for me, and next thing you knew, the relationship grew from there."
Their relationship is still growing five years later, and their collaborations are everywhere throughout Peterson's garage.
He pointed out his beloved Chevrolet Caprice. Peterson mentioned the red carpet, the Bentley interior and the push start -- what Peterson said was the wildest idea he has ever had for a car. He described the supercharged motor and rear air conditioning. He talked about how he had to rebuild it twice. There isn't another Donk -- the word that, as Autoweek says, described a customized 1971-76 Chevy Caprice or Impala -- like this one, Peterson said. And he's especially proud of that, since this was the car he grew up seeing on the streets of South Florida -- the vehicle that helped him fall in love with cars.
"I can guarantee, you cannot find another Donk that's as good as that one," Peterson said.
When Peterson can, he helps in the manual labor of rebuilding or customizing his cars. He painted his Corvette. He put a transmission in his 1973 Camaro. He helped paint his 1971 C-10. He also did some of the body work on his 2010 Camaro. Peterson can be out of the country, but he'll still find time to text or email Myers about updates or ideas.
A lot of rebuilding and customizing cars is trial and error, Peterson said. He may have one idea in his head, but when it's on a car, it doesn't look like he envisioned it.
"I'm full hands-on with every car that we ever built in this garage," he said.
Almost every car in his garage is a Chevy with the exception of two. So why Chevy? Peterson couldn't answer exactly. It was something about them when he was growing up in the 1990s that caught his eye and stuck with him ever since. Almost every one of his cars has been customized in some way. There's the red 1972 Chevy C-10 pickup truck parked behind the orange 1971 C-10 with a patina paint job in the middle of his garage. Along one wall are his 1969 Camaro, 2013 COPO, 2001 Camaro, 1968 Camaro and 1970 Nova. Parked in the middle of the garage is his orange 1973 Camaro. Outside were the 2017 Camaro and his 2014 Corvette Stingray.
His car collection is very much a reflection of who Peterson is on the field: Solid, strong and durable with a bit of flash and pizzazz.
With all the automotive art around him, his everyday car is a Cadillac Escalade.
And like some car owners, Peterson named all his rides. There's Pokie, Gramps, Villian, Cherry Bomb, Volcanic, Bodacious, Snake Eyes and Molly. He just named his 2017 Camaro Smoke. The names rolled off his tongue as he moved behind an executive-sized desk in his office in the corner of his garage.
Then, among the behemoths of American muscle are automotive royalty: A white Rolls-Royce Dawn and the white Ferrari 458.
The Rolls-Royce was Peterson's dream car.
"There was just something," Peterson said. "That car is just so elegant. That car is just very rich and it has its own identity from pretty much every car that's driven around in America. It also has a sport feel to it."
So if he already has his dream car, where does Peterson go from here?
"I don't know," he said with a smile. "I don't know. I'm running out of space."