Blake Peterson coming home to play for the Jackrabbits after three years at Iowa State
Beresford native grew up rooting for SDSU
BROOKINGS — Blake Peterson grew up wanting to play football at South Dakota State.
His dad, Brandon, played for the Jackrabbits. The family had season tickets back in the Coughlin-Alumni Stadium days. Blake, like so many kids who grew up in South Dakota, played on the grass field outside the stadium at halftime of SDSU games.
One of the earliest photos of Blake is as an infant, in the arms of Jackrabbit coach John Stiegelmeier.
So when Peterson emerged as one of South Dakota's top prep prospects while playing defensive end for Beresford in the late 2010s, it seemed like his dream of playing for the blue and yellow might come true.
There was only one "problem." Peterson was so good, he attracted interest from schools much bigger than South Dakota State.
Minnesota, Iowa State and Wyoming made offers. Michigan State, Kansas State and Stanford were in the mix, too.
Peterson ultimately chose Iowa State and after a redshirt year, he saw significant but limited action in three seasons for the Cyclones. He appeared in six games in the 2020 COVID-19 season, then played all 13 games in 2021, picking up sacks against Texas Tech and TCU.
But when his role didn't increase much this past season (he had nine tackles in nine games), Peterson decided it was time to come home. He entered the portal, and while he was open to whatever offers came his way, the hope from the beginning was that South Dakota State would be his new home.
After getting offers from USD, UND, Northern Iowa, Illinois State, Old Dominion, Western Kentucky, Kent State, UNC-Charlotte and North Dakota State, the Jacks called, and Peterson committed. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
"Basically I grew up here," Peterson said of South Dakota State. "Both my parents went here and when I entered the portal, I knew that's where I wanted to end up. Once they offered, I couldn't say no a second time. This is the best place for me."
The Jacks came after Peterson aggressively when he was coming out of high school. A pass rusher who got attention as much for his size and potential as his production with the Watchdogs, Peterson felt like he had to pursue the FBS opportunities that came his way, no matter how dear to his heart the Jackrabbits were.
"It was a great experience," said the 6-foot-4, 260-pounder. "I definitely don't regret it, I wanted to see what that level of football was like. But the three-man front they run, it's not built for D-linemen. Obviously, it works — they had the No. 1 defense in the Big 12 last year. I just really know a four-man front suits me and my ability a lot better. That was a main reason I wanted to transfer."
Another was that Peterson should have an opportunity to see more playing time at SDSU, and the rise of the Jacks program makes them an even more attractive destination. Not only are the Jacks coming off their first national championship, with the pieces in place to repeat, but they've proven that players can go from Brookings to the NFL. Peterson might have better prospects of playing professionally at SDSU than he would have at Iowa State.
"Certainly that was something I thought a lot about as I was making my decision," Peterson said. "It's been great to see them get to where they are. I was really happy for Coach Stig, getting to see him end his career on top. That's just awesome, and I'm really excited for this coming year because we have basically the whole roster coming back. I've always kept an eye on what they were doing even when I was at Iowa State, because it always felt like home."
Peterson is excited about new coach Jimmy Rogers and thinks he'll be a good fit in what's traditionally been a no-frills 4-3 defensive scheme. The Jacks' D-line was perhaps the strength of the team this year, but it's top two pass rushers — Reece Winkelman and Caleb Sanders — have moved on. Peterson can't wait to pin his ears back and chase the quarterback from the edge.
"I've never won a championship at any level of football," he said. "It's time."