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Iowa State defensive back Brian Peavy reacts during a win over Texas Tech.

AMES — Following Iowa State’s Liberty Bowl victory last season, cornerback Brian Peavy was about 50-50 on whether he’d enter the NFL Draft or return to Ames for his senior season.

Peavy returned, and that decision seems to be paying off.

According to Pro Football Focus, Peavy has been targeted 29 times and he’s only allowed 12 receptions. He’s broken up seven passes.

Against Kansas, he allowed a reception but immediately stripped the ball, allowing teammate Jamahl Johnson to recover. He said after the game he knew that receiver liked to back-step after catching passes when running a button-hook route.

Peavy’s listed at 5-foot-9, which might be a little generous. But he makes up for his lack of size in other areas – like knowing every receiver’s tendencies.

“That goes back to what makes Brian really special,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “We get lost in the size, speed – all the things that matter maybe a little bit, but not really. What really matters is great players have the ability to be a great player because they’re here studying the game. They sacrifice everything to be the best version of themselves they can be.

“Brian is the definition of that. He’s here all the time – he’s here all summer long. He’s a guy you can’t get out of here because his passion to be the best version of himself is really high.”

Watching film as intensely as he does is something Peavy picked up as he got older, but he recognizes he needs to do it to make Iowa State’s defense the best it can be and get to the next level.

“As I got older I started understanding the game is more mental than physical – that’s what separates the best,” Peavy said.

Most teams try to avoid Peavy – often times not throwing the ball to his side of the field. Kansas tried four times and it went poorly three out of the four.

Peavy appreciates the respect most teams give him.

“It’s a good day for me when the ball’s not thrown at me – it’s kind of chill,” Peavy said with a laugh. “I kind of like the respect aspect of it.”

It’s hard to tell whether Peavy has raised his NFL stock by coming back to school.

“The NFL’s such a different game than our game,” Campbell said. “Perception outside of our walls, from everybody’s aspect of it is, ‘Gosh, you’re a good player, you’re going to the NFL.’ Well, the NFL doesn’t care if you’re a good player. They care about numbers. They care about height. They care about weight. They have different measurables than maybe what we measure.

“I think the reality of it is, he’s controlling everything he can control to help himself at the next level, because really good pro teams, they still understand that all the things we talk about — attitude, effort, investment, you’re getting the most bang for your buck at that level.

“What Brian’s doing is he’s understanding he can control what he can control. He can’t control that he’s whatever his size is, but he can control the consistency of his play. He can control the ability to get better in the margins, so when his opportunity comes at that level, he’s going to have the opportunity to take advantage of it, no matter how it comes.”

Peavy cited former Cyclone great Ellis Hobbs as an undersized defensive back who stuck in the NFL for a long time.

So, while draft pundits and NFL teams may get caught up in Peavy’s lack of size, he’s going to continue studying the game and getting better.

“A lot of things can’t be measured,” Peavy said. “When you put on the film, you’ll see who Brian Peavy is.”

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