Team president Michael Bidwill presents the 2017 Cardinals Walter Payton Man of the Year award to cornerback Patrick Peterson Friday.
Patrick Peterson's smile is natural, emanating from a personality that came long before he became a football star.
Maybe it's in his DNA, because his grandfather – Arthur Johnson – was the same way. Maybe his grandfather just rubbed off on the grandson, given how much time they spent together in Peterson's youth.
"I just love smiling," Peterson said. "I love putting smiles on people's faces."
Peterson said that Friday as he accepted the award for being the 2017 Cardinals Walter Payton Man of the Year, the second time Peterson has collected that honor (2015) and which gives him the chance to be named the NFL's Man of the Year. The fact Peterson won the honor again just underscores the smiles he has delivered off the field in his charitable work.
Certainly, he has delivered plenty of smiles for the Cardinals for his on-field work. It's hard to argue anything but that this is peak Patrick Peterson right now, in all aspects.
"I won't say my peak," Peterson, 27, said. "I'll say my prime. I believe I'm just getting started."
The heights Peterson has reached as a player have been well-chronicled. Peterson again talked about his watershed 2014 season, when he both figured out some health issues (diabetes) but more importantly, realized how much work he had to do mentally and with studying to truly become a great cornerback.
"When he first got here I was able to beat up on him, and now, it's tough sledding when he's on me," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "He's always in my pocket."
His life has also fallen into place off the field, getting married and having a daughter. That support "makes things easy for me," Peterson said, and allowed him to ramp up his charitable work along with wife
Antonique and his own Foundation For Success.
Among his efforts are his annual "Shop With a Jock" to buy Christmas gifts for needy kids (which takes place next week), or fundraising efforts at TopGolf, his annual golf tournament and at his "Celebs and Steaks" dinner. Peterson has also visited, with his wife, Haiti as part of Mission of Hope. On Thanksgiving, Peterson handed out turkeys and other food items for needy families, and he has raised money and bought school supplies for those impacted by flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
That doesn't include the many "Patrick's Corner" reading areas Peterson has built to promote reading among young children.
"It's a lot of fun seeing someone you really care about really excel," said Fitzgerald, who was the co-NFL Man of the Year last year along with Eli Manning. "The footprint he has in this community now, the things he is doing, I'm just really proud of Patrick."
With six Pro Bowls in six seasons – and a likely seventh bid after this season – Peterson still believes an NFL Man of the Year nod would be his highest honor.
"It means more to me to be a better person than a better football player, because that lasts longer," Peterson said.
Peterson is both at the moment, which gives him plenty of reason to smile.
"He's even-keeled," close friend Tyrann Mathieu said. "He doesn't get too high, he doesn't get too low. He's the epitome of being a balanced human being."
"Sometimes I lay my head on the pillow and think, 'Hey, I wish I was more like Pat.' "
Images of key players on this week's opponent, the Tennessee Titans