William E. “Bill” Peterson graduated with his degree from Ohio Northern University in 1946. During his college time, Peterson played end for the football team.
With a dream to become a coach, Peterson began his career in coaching at a local Ohio high school. He soon joined Paul Dietzel as an assistant coach at LSU in 1955. As the offensive line coach, he was considered to be an important key in the Tiger’s 1958 National Championship win.
Due to his success at LSU, Peterson was named as head coach of Florida State University in December of 1959. While at FSU, Peterson led the ‘Noles to several key moments. He was the first Seminole coach to beat the University of Florida. He was the first coach to recruit black players to Florida State, including J.T. Thomas, who was FSU’s first African American football player.
With continued coaching success, Peterson joined the select group of coaches who have coached in high schools, major colleges, and the NFL. However, as the story is commonly told, his stint with the Houston Oilers in 1972 and part of 1973 proved to be depressing.
After leaving the NFL, Peterson became the athletic director for the University of Central Florida, and later Rice University. He died on August 5, 1993. Peterson is a honored member of the Florida State Hall of Fame; Ohio Northern Athletic Hall of Fame; the Gator Bowl Hall of Fame; the Mansfield, Ohio City Schools Hall of Fame; and the Toronto, Ohio School Athletic Hall of Fame.