The latter injury,
in a victory over Iowa State on Oct. 14, sidelined Peterson for the rest of the
regular season. Yet he returned for what proved to be one of the greatest
college football games in history, racing 25 yards for a touchdown on his final
carry in Boise State's stunning 43--42 overtime upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta
Bowl. "That describes everything to me in terms of his intangibles,"
one NFC scouting director says. "Knowing he's a sure top 10 pick and with
several people telling him not to risk it, he still comes back to play in the
bowl game. His competitiveness just took over."
Where does the
fire come from? Ask Peterson, and his soft eyes become misty. "I went
through a lot of things growing up," he says. "I spent some nights
sleeping in the car. I lost my brother at a young age. My father went to jail.
But, hey, everybody's got a story."
with the horrific accident he witnessed at the age of seven: His eight-year-old
brother, Brian, was struck and killed by a drunk driver while riding his
bicycle. Peterson remembers the scene "like it was yesterday. It was
unreal. I was maybe 15 feet away, on the grass in front of our apartment
complex, playing football with some friends. We were in this curved driveway,
and [Brian] was riding up and down the hill. I saw him go down and I ran to
him, screaming his name. When I got there his head was all swollen. I tried to
raise him up a little bit. I said his name. I didn't get a response."
Jackson, the boys'
mother, says that for nearly a decade Adrian was so devastated that "he
wouldn't open up about it, even to me. He talked to a counselor at school, but
that was it. We'd leave flowers every year on Brian's birthday, but for a long
time Adrian wouldn't go to the grave site. The two of them were like twins, and
it was a real emotional trauma for him."
Peterson says his
brother's death "made me a stronger person. When I think about how athletic
he was ... I never could beat him in a race. He made all A's in school. Who
knows what he might have been able to accomplish. It motivates me to work even
harder." It also helped Peterson fight through his grief at the combine. He
ran the 40 in 4.38 seconds and had a 38 1/2-inch vertical leap, among other
Later that day, in
interviews with NFL teams, Peterson answered questions he mostly
expected--including those about his close relationship with his father, Nelson,
who spent eight years in federal prison for money laundering--and dodged one
query that floored him. During his interview with officials from the Raiders,
including owner Al Davis and new coach Lane Kiffin, Peterson recalls,
"Someone asked me, 'Are you in a relationship right now? You got a
girlfriend?' I nodded yes, and he asked, 'So, are you in love?' There were 15
people staring at me, and I just looked back at them. I mean, that's getting
kind of personal."
Peterson had no
problem revealing his innermost feelings about football. "Teams were asking
what kind of back I thought I was," he recalls, "and I'd tell them,
'I'm a little bit of LT [ LaDainian Tomlinson]--his ability to hit the hole, his
vision, his breakaway speed--and a little bit of Larry Johnson, with the
initial attack and determination.' People were looking at me like I was crazy,
saying, 'Uh, that's a pretty good combination.'"
makes Peterson laugh as he finishes lunch and exits the restaurant with a
discernible bounce in his step. "The NFL's the best of the best," he
says. "They're not going to be able to stack nine in the box to stop one
guy, and I'm pretty sure those 245-pound linebackers won't be able to run me
down in the open field. I think about that, and I get excited. I'm ready to
goes on draft day, this much is certain: He'll take on his next challenge the
only way he knows--running headlong, fast and furious, plowing through the