Full Speed Ahead
On the road to the NFL, Adrian Peterson has encountered more than his share of obstacles, from serious injury to family tragedy. No matter where he ends up playing, he'll be running for his life -- and for the loved ones taken from him
Posted: Tuesday April 24, 2007 9:37AM; Updated: Thursday July 26, 2007 11:58AM
Adrian Peterson lay motionless on the hotel bed, sucker-punched by the news his parents had tried to keep from him and unsure of what to do next. He was alone in a darkened room in Indianapolis, just after midnight on Feb. 25, eyes filled with tears, staring at the ceiling. I don't believe it. Not now. Not again. Please, God, give me the strength to make it through.
With his NFL scouting combine session hours away, Peterson, the former Oklahoma running back and one of the 2007 draft's top prospects, pondered his options. Should he leave Indy first thing in the morning, blowing off his workout for coaches, scouts and personnel men? Surely they'd understand once they heard what he'd just learned from his cousin Lorenzo Henderson: Peterson's stepbrother, Chris Parish, had been fatally shot in an apparent homicide in Houston.
At 1 a.m. Peterson's agent, Ben Dogra, called and told him, "We can skip the combine and wait until your pro day if it's just too much for you." That made sense, but Peterson, coming off back-to-back seasons cut short by injury, had a point to prove: This was about more than getting a big contract; this was about laying it all out and competing under pressure, about seizing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and fulfilling a dream that had driven him since he was seven. And he would be showcasing himself not only for the NFL but also for the folks back home in Palestine, Texas, who knew how difficult his journey had been.
Peterson called his mother, Bonita Jackson, and was so choked up that he could barely speak. "You've overcome a lot of obstacles," she reminded him. "This is just another one." Shortly before 3 a.m. Peterson closed his eyes and recalled Parish's words from a phone conversation they'd had a few days earlier: "You're gonna show 'em! Represent for all of us in Palestine. I'll be watching." Finally there was clarity. When his wake-up call came in four hours, Peterson would do his best to block out his grief and barrel his way to the top of the draft.
There is nothing subtle about Adrian Peterson, 22, as anyone who watched the human sandblaster during his three seasons at Oklahoma can attest. Some college backs burst through the line and run for daylight, dancing nimbly past defenders; Peterson seemed to seek them out, charging forward like a man trying to fight his way through a rock slide. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, most opponents realized what Peterson's nickname, AD, stands for: All Day.