Talk about a dream scenario.
No one represents his city more than Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, a proud Oakland native. So really, what better place to receive the NFL defensive rookie of the year award — which he was awarded Saturday night during the league’s NFL Honors program — than San Francisco, which is a short drive across the Bay Bridge.
“It means a lot, you know,” Peters said. “It shows all my hard work and trusting and sacrificing that I had to do to get to this point. It's been a hell of a year for me, to turn around and think back last year around this time, what I was going through.”
The honor caps a remarkable season for Peters, who was dismissed from Washington during his redshirt junior year for repeating disagreements with the coaching staff but was still taken by the Chiefs with the 18th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
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“All it was was just me and my family and a dark tunnel — we always believed we could get to this point because my confidence in myself was never going to change at all, so everything else around me, I just needed to tight up a little bit,” Peters said.
On the season, Peters added a dash of playmaking to a secondary that desperately needed it. He tied for the league lead in interceptions with eight, and led the league in passes defensed with 26.
He and second-round pick Mitch Morse, who started 15 games at center, represented a respectable haul in last year’s draft, something Peters wasn’t shy about pointing out Saturday.
“The Chiefs stole the draft last year,” Peters said. “I knew I was the best defensive player going into last year’s draft. My demeanor ... even when I’m just hanging around my teammates, it just comes off a little strong. And my mom, she tells me all the time that I need to soften it up a little bit.
“But that’s the grind, that’s the grind that I get from Oakland. It teaches me to make sure I keep my core solid and trust and believe in family.”
Peters helped the Chiefs, who tied for last in the league in interceptions last season with six, increase that number to 22, the second-most in the league. He also returned two interceptions for scores and finished with 60 tackles.
“He’s a bad boy, man, he’s a bad boy,” Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders said of Peters, who had two interceptions against Denver this year. “This dude is one of the best corners I faced.”
Peters, who received 45 of 50 possible votes, is the third Chief to win his award, and the first since cornerback Dale Carter did it in 1992. Before Carter, outside linebacker Derrick Thomas won it in 1989.
The honor is just the latest for Peters, who racked up multiple awards this season. Not only was named named the NFL’s defensive player of the month for December, he was also named the Pro Football Writers Association’s defensive rookie of the year, which is chosen by accredited writers who cover the NFL daily.
The awards are voted on by a nationwide panel of writers and broadcasters.