Miami Dolphins

Peterson returns home Sunday, but the real party is with his father in the parking lot

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) moves to the field before the first of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals, Sun., Nov. 27, 2016, in Atlanta.
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) moves to the field before the first of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals, Sun., Nov. 27, 2016, in Atlanta. AP

The best tailgate at Hard Rock Stadium this week will be thrown by the dad and namesake of either the best or second-best cornerback in all of football.

Lot 9, near the RVs. There will be burgers and beers, ribs and sausage. Anywhere between 50 and 150 friends and family will attend.

It’s a party Patrick Peterson Sr. has been planning — if not expecting — to host since his now-grown kid was 6 years old.

Yes, Patrick Peterson Jr. is coming home. The Arizona Cardinals’ star defensive back will, play at the stadium now known as Hard Rock for the first time ever.

And his father can’t wait.

“It’s going to be fun,” the Peterson patriarch said. “A couple of family will be in from out of town. A lot of people don’t take that long flight to Arizona. Five hours in the sky.”

On Sunday, it’ll be a half-hour by land.

Peterson Jr. grew up in Pompano Beach. He starred at Blanche Ely. He grew up a Dolphins fan (Peterson’s recollection of Dolphins games from a decade ago is remarkable). And he played three years at Louisiana State and six more with the Cardinals.

But somehow he has never had the chance to take the field in his “home” stadium. That changes Sunday.

“Having the opportunity to play 20, 30 minutes away from where you grew up from is definitely an honor and I can’t wait to get back home and hopefully make some plays in front of my family,” he said.

He should. Peterson always does — ever since he was 6, when he told his father, who’s also his trainer and another ex-Ely legend, he wanted to be the best.

Two decades later, and Peterson might be just that. Dolphins coach Adam Gase, who has had to game-plan for Peterson in each of the past two years, said Wednesday that either Peterson or Seattle’s Richard Sherman is the league’s top corner.

The younger Peterson appreciated the praise, but didn’t include the caveat.

“I’ll never sell myself short,” he said. “I believe it’s well documented that I feel that I am the best in the league.”

Why is that?

“I believe I do different things than any corner in the league,” Peterson continued. “Darrelle Revis used to do it, but he kind of don’t do it anymore. You have some guys that travel with No. 1 receivers here or there. That’s my job. It’s a 24-hour job for me.”

Much of what Peterson has become — both as a player and a man — can be traced to his father.

Patrick Peterson Sr. might have been an NFL star in his own right, but a heart murmur snuffed out his career before it could even begin.

So instead, he channeled his energies and wisdom into his son. And he delivered some tough love when needed.

An example:

Peterson Jr. was a sophomore at Ely and already one of the Tigers’ best players.

But there was a family rule: If you don’t have a 2.5 grade-point average, you’re not playing. Peterson only managed a 2.3.

So the father made his son sit out his entire sophomore season.

What’s more, he had the younger Peterson go into the stands at home games and apologize to Ely fans. The teen blamed himself, and insisted it would never happen again.

“It really hurt him,” the elder Peterson said. “He cried for almost a month.”

He added: “We all make mistakes, but you face the consequences. … It made him understand even more about life. There’s a price you have to pay.”

When the emotions cooled, Peterson Jr. told his father he understood why he had to sit. He has never looked back; in 2007, Peterson’s senior season, USA Today named him its defensive player of the year.

A decade later, he’s a massive star, one perhaps even bigger than at least some of the Dolphins legends — Sam Madison, Patrick Surtain and Jason Taylor — he grew up idolizing.

“He’s a natural gift from God,” Peterson Sr. said.

His son would simply settle for being the best in the game.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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