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A star is born


September 01, 2017

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From the time Adrian Peterson began to participate in competitive sports, there was never any doubt that he was a special athlete. During his high school tenure, Peterson was a four-time letterman in track, a two-time letterman in both weightlifting and basketball, and a two-time all-state selection in football. His football accolades also included ESPN All-American honors and a Florida Class 4-A Player of the Year award for his outstanding performance as a senior.

Upon graduation, Peterson was a highly coveted recruit that seemed destined for greatness. Former Georgia Southern quarterback Tracy Ham, who actually attended the same high school as Peterson in Alachua, Florida, convinced him to accept a scholarship offer from GS, and the rest is history.

Peterson burst onto the college football scene, leading the Eagles to a national championship game in one of the most statistically dominant seasons the NCAA had ever seen. Although the team came up short during Peterson’s freshman year, they went on to win back-to-back national championships in 1999 and 2000, due in large part to his awe-inspiring talent.

By the time Peterson’s college career was finished, he held the all-time Division I record for career rushing yards. He also became the first sophomore in NCAA history to receive the Walter Payton Award, which is given to the nation’s top Division I-AA offensive player.

“We won, and we won a lot. You know, I got a lot of accolades, but our team always did exceptionally well. Being a part of that success was such an honor. I couldn’t ask for a better story,” Peterson said.

From Superstar to Specialist

Peterson entered the 2002 NFL Draft following his senior year at GS, and was selected by the Chicago Bears in the sixth round. He failed to receive many opportunities as a rookie, and spent most of his second year sidelined with an ankle injury. By the end of the 2005 season, Peterson was Chicago’s second leading rusher, and later went on to score a touchdown in a playoff game.

Peterson often faced an uphill battle as a third-string running back and was primarily utilized as a role player on special teams. However, when he was given ample playing

time, he often exceeded expectations.

“In high school, I was a superstar. In college, I was a superstar. But when I got to the NFL, I became a role player. I came to understand that not everyone could make it on ESPN highlights and Sports Illustrated covers,” Peterson said.

Although his professional career never resulted in the same kind of individual success and recognition that he had grown accustomed to as a high school and collegiate athlete, he was still able to experience things that he would cherish for the rest of his life. He was a member of the 2006 Chicago Bears team that made it to the Super Bowl.

As the Bears began to pull away late in the NFC Championships game, Peterson became overwhelmed with emotion. He had longed for a chance to participate in a Super Bowl since he was a kid, and watching his childhood dream become a reality was a surreal moment for him.

Life After Football

As every true competitor knows, it’s impossible to perform at a high level forever. The body eventually begins to atrophy, and the biological clock forces the athlete to admit that it’s time to begin the next chapter. For Peterson, the highlight of his post-football career has been spending time with his children and mentoring young people.

Following his retirement from professional sports, Peterson decided to become a motivational speaker. He believes that his life is a testament to the idea that any and all obstacles can be overcome through discipline and hard work. Peterson has struggled throughout his entire life with a speech impediment that rendered him quiet and self-conscious as a young man, and he hopes that by sharing his story with other young athletes across the nation that he can instill them with the confidence that they need to become successful.

In 2013, he released an autobiography titled “Don’t Dis My Abilities,” which detailed the aforementioned struggles he faced. Peterson also opened a sports facility, All Pro Sports Performance, which is located in Gurnee, Illinois. All Pro Sports Performance was designed to offer its clients innovative workouts and techniques to maximize their athletic potential.

Peterson was recently inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, an honor that has been bestowed on less than 1,000 players in the history of the NCAA. To say that his induction is an incredible accomplishment would be an understatement. He still maintains a relationship with both the Georgia Southern football program and the local community.

 

“The [football] program has changed a lot. I actually got a chance to speak with the team over the summer, and I’m jealous. But it’s a good jealous. Whenever you get a chance to see something that you were once a part of grow, it’s always good. Last season, we had a bit of an off year, but I think we’re heading up again and I’m tremendously excited about that,” Peterson said.


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