May 21, 2007 9:28 am US/Central
Adrian Peterson Credits Family For Success
The Timberwolves have Kevin Garnett. The Wild have Marian Gaborik. The Twins have Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Torii Hunter.
Every professional sports team wants to have a player capable of head-turning moments. Every team wants a star.
A star player is something the Minnesota Vikings have been without since the departure of Randy Moss.
The Vikings hoped to change that when they drafted Adrian Peterson.
Peterson has already begun to taste the onslaught of fame while spending last weekend at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for rookie initiation. There, he was introduced to the NFL marketing plan, which included his first pro football trading card.
While everything begins to fall into place and the rookie prepares to report for training in Mankato, Minn., it's important to take a look back at what he overcame to get here.
Norman, Okla. is smack in the middle of football country, and he is undoubtedly a member of the elite.
At the University of Oklahoma Hall of Fame, there are copious reminders of his already legendary football career.
Jerseys of all sizes drive sales at the campus bookstore.
"You wouldn't believe how much fan mail he gets. It's unreal," said Oklahoma football equipment manager Kyle Bunds. "We have two different mailing addresses for him here."
Peterson is part of a tradition that includes Minnesota native and Sooner national champion coach Bud Wilkinson.
The scene, as he puts it: "crazy," which could also be used to describe the trajectory of his life.
Peterson is the product of a relationship that includes a father who served eight years in prison for drug trafficking.
"I realize what I have done, and I've had to pay my debt to society," said Nelson Peterson. "The hard part of that was when Adrian and the rest of my kids needed me and where going through different things."
Nelson Peterson played division one basketball at Idaho State until a staff infection ended his career. Despite their shared athletic history, the bars of incarceration tested the father-son relationship.
"I recall one incident where [Adrian] came to see me and said, 'Dad, I'm ready for you to come home,'" said Peterson. "I remember going back to my room after that visit was over and just laying in the bed. I didn't want anyone to talk to me ... breaking down."
"To just have my Dad not in my life at that time, it was getting kind of hard. I just felt that I needed him there with me," said Adrian Peterson.
Then there was a tougher time, when he watched his 8-year-old brother Brian killed while riding his bike by a drunk driver.
"Not a day goes by that I don't think about it, what he could've done if he was here," said Adrian's mother Bonita Jackson.
Peterson said every time he ran out onto the football field, he would take a moment to point to the sky to acknowledge Brian's presence.
"Adrian was a lot of strength to me because I just basically fell apart. I grieved a long time, but then I snapped back because I realized that I had another child," said Bonita.
The running back also lost a stepbrother this spring, and recently another brother was arrested for an alleged burglary. Yet it is his family that keeps him going.
"He has a great faith, and you see that. When you're around a guy like Adrian, it comes through," said Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops. "They've done a great job through tough times."
Now Peterson has a family of his own. His high school girlfriend gave birth to his 2-year-old daughter Adaysia.
"She means the world to me," he said.
"He's a very compassionate person. He loves his little girl," said Bonita, who added that his outlook towards fatherhood is an example of the lessons he lives. "Look past the negative and think toward the positive and you'll be alright. Above all things, you put God first, and everything will be set in place."
The importance of family even extends into Peterson's professional career. Jackson, who was once a division sprinter at the University of Houston, now helps her son on running technique.
As compassionate as Adrian has remained with his family, the story is somewhat different on the gridiron.
He has been described, in his cover story in Sports Illustrated, as a "human sandblaster who would charge forward like a man trying to fight his way through a rock slide." A pro scout called him "a complete freak, a young Eric Dickerson, who runs angry."
These descriptions give the Vikings hope that some much-needed playmaker action would finally explode at Winter Park. He appears ready for the challenge.
"I know I can expect a lot of speed, on both sides of the ball," said Adrian. "A lot different from college, bigger guys. Guys out there playing with the attitude, 'I've got to take care of my family.'"
He was described by Stoops as "a guy that's popular in the locker room because of how he works and his attitude and how he wants to be one of them, rather than be on the front page of any newspaper. He's as indifferent to that of any young guy I've ever been around."
The game has changed Peterson's life, but talk to everyone associated with him and you hear the same thing: you might beat Adrian Peterson, you will never outwork Adrian Peterson.
"Adrian Peterson is the type of guy that's going to work 130 percent," said Nelson Peterson.
That is a sentiment that should certainly sound like music to the ears of Minnesota Vikings fans.
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