Peterson’s father looking on

Vikings back prepares for second straight Pro Bowl

Associated Press

KAPOLEI, Hawaii — In an all-star game with little significance, where players avoid injury at all cost and hardly break a sweat, NFC coach Andy Reid asked how many times Adrian Peterson wanted to carry the ball.

"You can give it to me every time," Peterson replied.

So Reid has his game plan prepared for Sunday’s Pro Bowl: "I’m going to run him 400 times," the Philadelphia Eagles coach said.


"That’s how he is," Reid said. "He’s bright-eyed ambitious."

No one knows that better than Nelson Peterson, the father of the All-Pro running back, who proudly watched Pro Bowl practice Wednesday from the sideline wearing a T-shirt printed with his son’s name and number.

"I teach him to work hard to accomplish these things in life," Nelson said. "Don’t take it for granted because, even if you’ve got God-given ability, you still have to work. That’s what I think puts him above the rest."

While playing a major role in his son’s life and football career, Nelson hasn’t always been able to cheer from the sidelines. So he’s not going to miss another opportunity.

When Adrian was 12, his father was sent to prison for eight years for laundering drug money. Peterson was left without the man and mentor who first put a football in his hands.

"He hasn’t always been there physically, but mentally he’s always been there encouraging me to go after my dream," Peterson said. "It wasn’t easy."

Peterson said he was crushed by not having his father around, but never made that an excuse why he couldn’t succeed. In many ways, it helped him become the person and player he is today — he used football as a place to channel and escape his hurt and frustration.

"So I started looking at it and just feeding off it, using it as motivation to do better for him because he wasn’t here," he said.


Peterson also wanted to have big games as a youngster so his father could read about it in the newspapers. He thought that would also help pass the time in prison.

And Adrian was always making headlines.

He rushed for 2,960 yards and 32 touchdowns during his senior season at Palestine High School in Texas, then racked up an NCAA freshman record 1,925 yards in his freshman season at Oklahoma.

His father’s incarceration wasn’t the only obstacle Peterson has had to overcome.

When Adrian was 7, his 8-year-old brother Brian was riding his bicycle when he was killed by a drunk driver. Years later, his half brother, Chris Paris, was shot and killed the night before Peterson worked out for scouts and coaches at the NFL combine.

"It’s been the hard knocks of life," Nelson said. "He’s learned there’s a different way and better way of doing things that will make your life a whole lot better."

Nelson, a star basketball player in high school and at Idaho State, tried to teach through his mistakes. He also taught Adrian about respect.

"I told him to always introduce himself, look a man in the eye, give him a firm handshake and say, ’I’m Adrian Peterson,"’ Nelson said. "Respect others. That will take you a long way in life."


Evidently Adrian has followed his father’s words, greeting anyone he meets a bone-crunching handshake and a warm smile.

In just his second season, Peterson led the NFL with 1,760 yards rushing and helped the Minnesota Vikings reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

As a rookie in last year’s Pro Bowl, Peterson ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns to lead the NFC to a 42-30 comeback victory over the AFC. His performance earned MVP honors and keys to a Cadillac. Peterson joined Marshall Faulk as the only rookies to be voted MVP of the Pro Bowl.

He remembers last year in Hawaii, fellow Pro Bowlers were demanding the rookie’s hotel room number to rack up food, beverage and spa charges.

"I kept my room number top secret," he said.

In this offseason, Peterson said he’ll work to improve pass protection and running routes, while trying to bulk up from 218 pounds to about 225 or 230 without losing speed.

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