For the fifth year in a row, wide receiver Dean Patterson has been named an All-American by the Offense-Defense instructional football camp. He’s also been hand-selected to participate in the organization’s Bowl Week festivities, at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando at the end of the year.
Even though he’s used to the invitation by now, he still admits to some jitters before he steps onto the field.
“I get kind of nervous and freaked out,” Patterson said. “But as the days (get closer), I normally just get all excited and happy.”
Patterson can be forgiven for his nerves, considering he’s just 12 years old. The seventh-grader, who lives in Lutz and attends Martinez Middle School, plays for the South Pasco Predators Pop Warner football program. He’s played youth football since he was four, and started getting recognition from Offense-Defense when he was seven.
Like many athletes his age, Patterson loves watching football at the higher levels. As a fan of Florida State University and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, he’s seen his teams achieve great success over the past year.
But he doesn’t watch the games like a regular preteen. Patterson keeps his eyes on the receivers, watching their movements, how they get separation from the defenders, and make adjustments to catch the ball. He supports his teams, but he’s also studying them, trying to find qualities he can emulate when he steps onto the field.
His system seems to be working. Each year, Patterson impresses the decision-makers at the Offense-Defense camp, even as he gets older and faces better talent coming to compete for spots at Bowl Week. But his reward includes a number of activities over the course of several days, including practices, a game at the Citrus Bowl, and another on campus at the University of Central Florida in Oviedo.
Even though Patterson’s a regular at the event, his first invitation didn’t even come at receiver. He was a running back at the time, and a cornerback the following year. But since then, he’s settled into the position he loves and plans to stick with it. He enjoys running routes and hearing his mother, Krystal, yell his name from the stands when he makes a big play.
At 5-foot-1, Patterson isn’t the tallest athlete on the team. Weighing 104 pounds, he’s not the biggest. And by his own admission, he’s only third or fourth fastest. It’s the intangibles, hard work and focus that allow him to excel at his position.
“It’s kind of getting to know your quarterback and what speed you have to run,” he said. Adjusting to a ball that might be over or under-thrown and making the catch is part of the job.
His future receiving opportunities include a potential athletic career at Steinbrenner High School when he’s old enough to attend. But before he can suit up for the Warriors, he has to stay focused and remain disciplined.
That includes in the classroom, too. Patterson reads to keep his vocabulary up and makes sure his studies are a primary focus.
“School’s always first,” he said. “You have to make sure you get good grades.”
Patterson also spends a lot of time with his head coach, going over game film and doing exercises every morning. But it’s not hard to schedule those workouts since his father coaches the team.
While it’s not unusual for a father to get involved in his son’s athletics, Robert Patterson had been coaching well before Dean had even seen a pigskin. An athlete himself who played football in high school — and soccer and lacrosse in college — he said that a coach was instrumental in helping him stay focus and motivated, and achieve success beyond high school. He wanted to be that kind of role model for other children, and that now includes his son.
“I’ve been working with at-risk youth for 20 years, helping kids get back on track or stay out of trouble with the law,” Robert Patterson said. “So to be able to do that with your kid, and see him flourish on the football field as well as the classroom, it’s a special deal.”
In addition to practicing three days during the week and playing a game on Saturdays, father and son have a regular early-morning jog that includes push-ups mixed in as well. Dean wakes up at 6:30 every morning to take care of his dog, Brady — named after the famous New England Patriots quarterback — before heading out on their morning routine.
The Pattersons are a close family. Dean’s little sister Kyra is on the cheer squad for the Predators, so she’s on the field while her brother practices at the Land O’ Lakes Recreation Center.
But they can be competitive, too.
When playing video game football on their Xbox 360, both Dean and Robert agree that dad has the upper hand. But what about a hypothetical match-up between the Patterson men if they were the same age, with Robert at his high school position of cornerback covering Dean as wide receiver? In that case, they have differing opinions over who would get the best of that encounter.
“I don’t know. It would have been a competitive deal, put it that way,” Robert said.
But Dean thinks he’d have the edge and could get open.
“I definitely do think so,” he said with a smile.
Published September 17, 2014
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