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Kevin Peterson leaves lasting legacy at Oklahoma State

The question left Kevin Peterson pondering.

Oklahoma State’s All-Big 12 cornerback had never really thought about his legacy. He just lived like he did.

"He's a very hard worker," senior quarterback J.W. Walsh said. "From Day 1, you could tell when he came to campus. He wanted to be a guy who not just came through OSU and played but one that came through and was going to bust his tail and make something of his career and help his team the best he can."

A three-year starter and the cornerstone of Oklahoma State's secondary, Peterson will leave Stillwater as one of the best defensive backs of the Mike Gundy era, earning a spot alongside Justin Gilbert and Perrish Cox.

"I'm really going to miss that guy," defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. "Some guys you'll think 'Well, I've got this guy coming up,' but I'm really going to miss him."

As Peterson prepares to play his final game in an Oklahoma State uniform in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Ole Miss, he knows how he wants to be remembered.

"My legacy is always trying to do the right thing," he said. "You have to be able to play your best ball, game in and game out. It's not as hard as it looks, just put in the effort, put in the work, do what you've got to do and it will pretty much come to you."

A two-star signee from Wagoner, Oklahoma, Peterson called it a culture shock when he arrived at Oklahoma State. Yet he arrived with a hunger to improve that was molded by the two veterans of the Cowboys cornerback corps when he arrived in 2012.

"Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown really showed that once you get to this level, everybody is on the same field," Peterson said. "What are you going to do to put yourself above people? Are you going to ride with the crowd or do you want to set yourself apart? They told me that the first day I got here and I got hungrier and hungrier."

After contributing in a backup role as a freshman, Peterson flourished as a sophomore -- joining Gilbert to give the Cowboys one of the Big 12's top cornerback duos in 2013. Since then, he's been one of the Big 12's best cornerbacks, capping off his stellar career with 37 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, six pass breakups, one interception and one fumble recovery in 2015.

"He's played a pivotal role," Walsh said. "He's been big-time for us."

A one-time Oklahoma commit, Peterson looks back on his time at Oklahoma State with no regrets even though the Sooners dashed the Cowboys' Big 12 title dreams twice (2013, 2015) on the final day of the regular season during his career and landed a berth in the College Football Playoff this year. In fact, the only time he's even questioned his decision to flip to Oklahoma State was during the Cowboys' lackluster season, which included a five-game losing streak, in 2014.

"I thought about that last year, like 'Dang, what if I had went to OU?'" he said. "But I look back on it and I have no regrets. I feel like I made the right decision. All the friends I've made, got my schooling done and all the things I've done on the field. I don't regret anything I've done here. It's been the most fun of my life."

Peterson, an NFL prospect who recently accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, has plenty of physical gifts, with his athleticism and quickness ranking near the top. But to Spencer, it is his toughness that really stands out.

"He's got what I call authentic toughness," said Spencer, who noted that some skill position guys will let nagging injuries get the best of them. "There aren't a lot of authentic tough guys out there."

Peterson battled through various injuries, including an ankle injury, during the latter part of his final season. That set an example while furthering a legacy Spencer hopes will have an influence on young players like Ramon Richards.

"His toughness came through," Spencer said. "He's had some [injury] issues people don't know about. Those young kids, they saw him respond to those injuries. He wasn't tapping out of practice, he wasn't tapping out of drills, he wasn't tapping out of ball games because he was hurt. He has been an unbelievable example."