“I didn’t raise him that way,” she said, though she can laugh about it now.
Hoping to qualify academically for Division I schools, he stayed close to home at North Carolina Tech Preparatory Christian Academy. He never played there, though, and quickly decided the school — which propelled fellow wideouts Antonio Brown and Lestar Jean toward the NFL but was also investigated by the state of North Carolina and ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” — didn’t have his best interests in mind.
After one semester, Patterson, a country boy at heart who is just as likely to be bumping Hunter Hayes in his headphones as he is hip-hop, headed to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
Hutchinson coach Rion Rhoades soon found out that it was probably easier to tackle Patterson than it was to earn his trust.
“He was probably a little bit tougher nut to crack than most,” he said. “It just took a while, and I think he finally figured out that we cared about more than just what he did on the football field.”
Which was pretty much everything.
Rhoades used him as a receiver, runner, Wildcat quarterback and even his backup kicker. But Patterson was feared most as a kickoff returner. Opponents tried to kick away from him, including squibbing it short. So Rhoades had his backup quarterback line up as the up back, catch the kickoff and chuck the ball to Patterson, who averaged 48.2 yards as a sophomore.
After two years and 36 touchdowns, the NCAA’s big boys came calling. Patterson, the nation’s No. 1 junior college recruit, picked a Tennessee hat from a pile that also included ones from LSU, Georgia and Ole Miss.
In his only season in Knoxville, he scored a touchdown four different ways while earning all-SEC honors. Patterson was on the fence about declaring early. Then new Volunteers coach Butch Jones told the Knoxville News Sentinel that Patterson was “definitely going to the NFL.” The two have never talked.
“He put that article out, so I thought that was the best thing for me, to just go on and get up out of there,” Patterson said.
The Vikings traded up to draft him 29th overall. And to think, Patterson nearly fell through the cracks.
“There are some great players just walking the streets,” Rhoades said. “I’m super thankful that CP embraced his opportunities so he didn’t become one of those guys.”
‘Thrill a minute’
After watching tape of Patterson slaloming through SEC defenses and coverage teams, George Stewart, the Vikings’ wide receivers coach, couldn’t wait to coach him.
“This guy was a thrill a minute, all loosey-goosey, just making plays,” Stewart said.
Patterson is 6 feet 2 and 220 pounds with a chiseled upper body and 4.4 speed. But Stewart says that what makes him special is his vision.
“All the great players I’ve been associated with had a big viewfinder. They can see everything,” Stewart said. “That’s something that is God-given, that awareness. Those great players — Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders — they all had great vision.”