"I found myself walking up the steps, and I looked down right at this big Heisman Trophy just sitting in this real nice case," Peterson said Friday during a break from his football camp. "I was like, `Awww!' I wanted to ask him where Matt Leinart was so I could go over there and take mine. But it's all good. It is what it is."
Peterson has moved on to a successful career in the NFL, breaking the league record for most yards rushing in a single game and helping the Minnesota Vikings make the playoffs a year ago. He now finds himself awash in the ongoing soap opera over whether Brett Favre will come out of retirement for a second straight year and sign with Minnesota.
"You're talking about a Hall of Fame quarterback, a guy that I grew up watching. I love just the passion he played with," Peterson said. "If he is a part of our team when the season comes around, when training camp comes around, we're going to welcome him with open arms and see where the chips fall."
Peterson said he'll tell coach Brad Childress and top Vikings officials what he thinks, but he isn't about to get himself tangled up in deciding whether to pursue Favre or stick with either Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.
"I know our coach is going to do his job, and at the end of the day his job is having the best team possible to win games," Peterson said. "That's his job, so I'm going to let him handle his job and I'm going to do my job."
Peterson was back at his old college campus, reminiscing about all he had accomplished -- and hadn't quite done -- in his three years with the Sooners.
Leinart won the Heisman Trophy in 2004, when Peterson ran for an NCAA freshman record 1,925 yards and became the first frosh to place second in the Heisman voting. Leinart and Bush, who won the trophy in 2005, would go on to lead Southern Cal to a 55-19 thumping of Peterson, 2003 Heisman winner Jason White and the Sooners in the Orange Bowl and win the BCS championship.
Nearly five years later, Peterson still covets the two trophies he was denied by the Trojans.
"When I look back, I had an outstanding career," Peterson said. "There were some things that -- a national championship, I didn't accomplish that. I fell short. I had the opportunity my freshman year, and I don't even want to talk about that.
"I definitely wanted to win the Heisman Trophy, and that didn't work out. There was definitely a lot that I wanted to accomplish, but unfortunately I didn't do it."
This weekend, Peterson can try to forget about that with the help of about 400 kids ages 7 to 14. He paused and flexed his right arm after overthrowing a receiver in the end zone on one play this week, then made up for it by finding another kid open in the back corner for a TD.
When he moved to another field, he got a taste of what it's really like to be a quarterback when his waist-high defenders came on the attack.
On one play, he picked up a blitzer with his left arm while tossing an on-target pass with his right. He could only shake his head after throwing an interception, then threw another moments later.
During a question-and-answer session with the kids, one of the college coaches working at the camp suggested that Peterson had always harbored a secret desire to be a quarterback. But when he asked a youngster what position Peterson would play on his team, he responded, "running back."
With or without Favre, Peterson suggested that the camp could be a preview of things to come for the Vikings.
"We picked up (Florida speedster) Percy Harvin, so we're going to be running a lot of different scat formations ... maybe Wildcat," Peterson said, referring to the Dolphins' use of the direct snap to a running back. "We might just throw that in there some. So, you guys just might see me on Sundays throwing the ball, too."