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Sunday slant: Peterson the humble superstar
Adrian Peterson could be closing in on 2,000 yards before the end of the season after many questioned whether he could be the same player he was before reconstructive knee surgery on Dec. 30, or whether the torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments would essentially end his career.
Peterson is back. In fact, he is better than ever on the football field, proving that he really did have a happy new year after his surgery, even if the first eight months of grueling rehabilitative workouts weren't always so joyful.
Off the field, however, he is just as impressive. He survived a public relations blemish in what appeared all along to a case of overzealous off-duty cops in Houston – a town reputed for it – and kept his a positive outlook as unrelenting as his work ethic.
Vikings fans certainly are watching the greatest running back in franchise history. They might also be watching the guy who becomes known as the best running back of all-time and the best Vikings player in the 52-year history of the organization.
Those are all laudatory statements on a player who handles the spotlight and pressure that comes with NFL stardom better than nearly everyone around him.
He appears unflappable on the field, but there is one thing that made the cool cat in the number 28 jersey "panic" last week.
It wasn't a camera, an aggressive question from a reporter or a hard-charging linebacker bearing down on him that caused concern for Peterson. It was a little boy. It happened shortly after the Vikings' 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears, when Peterson was searching for a boy named Anthony to fulfill a promise he had made to him the day before.
Anthony visited a Vikings practice on Dec. 8 as part of a regular Saturday program when the team hosts people in need of an emotional lift, whether it is ailing children, military personnel or others. On that Saturday, Anthony, who is in need of a heart transplant, was visiting Winter Park.
"What I'm going to do, if God's willing, I'll score a couple touchdowns tomorrow and I'll get you a game ball," Peterson told Anthony while on bending knee after that Saturday practice.
God was willing and Peterson was able. The man that fans dubbed "Purple Jesus" scored two touchdowns as part of his 31-carry, 154-yard rushing effort that earned him the NFC Offensive Player of the Week and the FedEx Ground Player of the Week. But when Peterson was done bruising the Chicago Bears, he couldn't find Anthony and his family. Like many in attendance, they had left the game early because of the bad weather conditions.
Peterson made sure a football was signed and given to Anthony. No doubt it made Anthony's day, but it was hardly a one-time gesture from the big talent and big-hearted Peterson.
"Every Saturday, we have a special group – it might be a veteran that lost their legs in the war or it might be a Make-A-Wish (recipient). It's closed to the public and the team meets the group that I have," said Brad Madson, the Vikings director of community relations. "Even if it's a general visit, (Peterson) always is the last guy to leave the field to make sure that he shakes (hands) and signs something for every person that's there. He totally gets it."
Peterson really does get it.
Few – perhaps no one – handle the different demands of stardom as well as Peterson, and no one else receives the amount of requests he does. During his lunch hour last week, he was filming an interview for a national television show. Before practice he was doing a national radio spot. After games, he a regular presence at the press conference podium after his big performances, and he is no stranger to the calls from national columnists.
He does it all with his million-dollar smile.
Off the field, Peterson's stardom helps him support causes that are close to him, like the $1 million pledge he made to the student-athlete housing complex at the University of Oklahoma, or his annual giveaway of 400 turkey dinners before Thanksgiving back near his hometown. He also supports causes to which he doesn't have a close affiliation, such as his $50,000 donation to Hurricane Sandy relief.
While Peterson's financial contributions are admirable, it's the little gestures of time and attention that really make him stand out. Anthony is far from alone among the kids Peterson positively affects; he's just the most recent example.
"He knows that he's the guy everybody wants to meet," Madson said. "He's a joy to work with. In 20 years here, of his stature he's the most humble and giving person I've been around. He's quite the guy and it's heartfelt."
Peterson might be the most be the best player the Vikings have ever had when considering talent, production, work ethic and willpower. He's probably also the most humble and selfless superstars that Winter Park has ever housed, something those in the media also believe. He should be celebrated for his on-field achievements for sure, but Vikings fans should be proud that perhaps the best player in the NFL this year also has one of the biggest hearts.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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