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Cordarrelle Patterson feels at home in Atlanta

In the midst of the best season of his career, Cordarrelle Patterson credits his breakout year to being the most comfortable he has ever been in the NFL.

Patterson opened up in a conversation with Kris Rhim about the people who inspire him, his love for Atlanta, and why he is ensuring that he is the fan-favorite.

By Kris Rhim

Cordarrelle Patterson's NFL career began with high expectations and controversy.

After dominating for two years at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, 24/7 sports ranked Patterson the nation's No. 1 JUCO (junior college) player. Following his sophomore season, he chose the University of Tennessee, where he made an immediate impact. Tennessee used Patterson primarily as a wide receiver, but he also shined as a return specialist and running back, setting a school record with 1,858 all-purpose yards. Following his at standout season, the Minnesota Vikings selected him with the 26th pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

When he got to the Vikings, Patterson selected the number he wore for as long as he could remember – 84. The digits are special to him because they represent the year his sister was born, 1984.

There was just one problem.

Arguably the greatest player in Vikings history and one of the best receivers in NFL history, Randy Moss starred in No. 84 for Minnesota. Already a first-round pick with enormous expectations, Patterson inadvertently added even more — and upset many who thought the number choice was disrespectful to Moss' legacy.

"First of all, that's disrespectful, to give a rookie my number," Moss said in 2013. "I don't really believe in numbers, but I think that, from a professional standpoint, I did make that number. And for them to give him that number, he hasn't proven anything yet."

For Patterson, Moss and Devin Hester were the players he looked up to most growing up; he even calls Moss "GOAT" (greatest of all-time), so the number choice was anything but an attempt at disrespect.

"Who wouldn't wanna play like Randy Moss?" Patterson said. "'You got Mossed!' Little kids still say that to this day. We all still say that."

And while Patterson did not match Moss' then-record setting 1,313-yard, 17-touchdown rookie season, he certainly didn't make the number look bad. He had over 600 yards from scrimmage and led the league in kick return average, kick return touchdowns and finished fifth in offensive rookie of the year voting.

Since then, Patterson has struggled to reach the heights he had in his first year. He has eclipsed over 500 yards from scrimmage just once, has been on four different teams, and has become known for his skill as a kick returner instead of an offensive weapon.

That all changed this season.

The cliché is third time's a charm, but it took his fifth NFL team for Patterson to play his best football. Through seven games, he has matched his season-high with seven touchdowns, and his 601 yards from scrimmage are the second-highest in his career (627). Not only is this Patterson's best season as a pro, but he has been the Falcons' most consistent offensive weapon. Coach Arthur Smith uses Patterson in the offense similarly to how teams in recent years have – as a running back and wide receiver – but the difference in Atlanta is that Patterson is more comfortable than he has ever been in his pro career.

"It really do feel like home," Patterson, 30, said. "I feel like they are really embracing the guy I can be on the football field… I really love Atlanta, man."

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There is no precedent for Patterson, a 6-foot-2 220-pound athlete who is a nightmare kick returner, dynamic running back, and pass catcher. In his own words, Patterson describes himself as an animal.

"I feel like I'm a beast," Patterson said when describing his playing style. "I'm a baller. When I get out there, it's lights out."

Patterson's emergence is no surprise to many of his teammates, who call him 'CP,' especially Calvin Ridley. Ridley watched almost all of Patterson's games the past two seasons because his brother Riley played for Chicago.

"I knew CP was a dynamic player," Ridley said. "When he would get the ball at other positions, I knew he could be a playmaker."

Patterson is unique because of his combination of size, speed, and power. He ran track throughout high school and at Hutchinson, where he finished eighth at the national championships in the 100-meter dash. Still, at 220 pounds, Patterson is always looking for an opportunity to be physical and lower his shoulder. It pains him when the Falcons start the game on defense because he likes to get hit early in the game; it wakes him up, like coffee or an energy drink does for most.

One of his favorite moments this season came in week five against the Jets when he ran over 6-foot-198-pound former Falcons defensive back Sharrod Neasman. Patterson, who was mic'd up, even yelled "Little ass boy!" after making the play.

"I like getting hit," Patterson said with a smile. "Any chance I get the ball, I'm gonna try to run you over. I'm not trying to run out of bounds. I'm not trying to get down. I'm trying to bring the hammer. So, if you in my way, you got to get ran over or get out the way."

Patterson often shuts down those who try to limit him to one of the positions he plays. His willingness to fill any need comes from his upbringing. Patterson grew up in Rock Hill, S.C., alongside his brother Charles, sister Crystal, and mother Catherine. Patterson still talks to his mother and sister three to four times a day, they are regulars at his home and at Falcons games, along with Patterson's four children — two boys and two girls — and his girlfriend. For Patterson, family is one of the most important things in his life. He has the words: "faith, family, football" tattooed on his leg to represent the three things that define him.

Patterson's mother was essential in establishing those values.

Growing up, Patterson watched as his mother struggled to make ends meet while working multiple jobs to provide for the family. Because of that experience, doing a little bit of extra work on the football field is easy for him.

"If my mom could go out there and work three jobs, I can go out there and play three positions. Why can't I do what she did for us?" Patterson said. "It's like a big motivation, and every time I'm on the field, I don't care where they put me; I'm gonna make a play. You can put me at safety; I'm getting an interception. You put me at D-End Ima get a sack. That's just the mindset that I have, and nobody can take that confidence away from me."

And Patterson may just get an opportunity on defense sometime in the future. After Dante Fowler was ruled out ahead of the Falcons' Week 7 matchup against the Miami Dolphins, Smith joked that Patterson could see some time on the defensive line.

"I know this, you ask CP to go in there and play [defensive end], he'd do it and wouldn't hesitate," Smith said.

In his ninth season, Patterson has found a home in Atlanta, where his skills are being optimized in ways they have not been before. As he continues to dominate on the field, he is keeping Falcons fans in mind.

"Everywhere I go, you know I always try to make sure I'm the fan favorite," Patterson said with a laugh. "I'm gonna go win your fans over, so when it's time for a contract, you know I got the fans on my side. So that's just one thing I do, I gotta get all the fans, man, get them in line, and they're gonna vouch for me at the end of the year."

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