On Dec. 24, 2011, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL. On Dec. 30, 2012 he officially broke 2,000 yards and came less than ten yards shy of breaking the single-season record. The man is an inspiration, for young and old alike. (Image: AP)
On Dec. 24, 2011, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL. On Dec. 30, 2012, he officially broke 2,000 yards and came less than ten yards shy of breaking the single-season record. The man is an inspiration for young and old alike. (Image: AP)

When I was a kid I was fascinated by Barry Sanders. Watching him, it seemed as though every time he touched the ball he could score. Others guys often say that’s what’s going through their mind, but with him you just had the sense he believed it. Coupled with his professionalism (I don’t think I ever saw him do an end zone dance) he was one of my role models. It wasn’t until I first caught a glimpse of Adrian Peterson handle the ball that a similar sense of awe came over me.

Today, Mr. Peterson joined an exclusive club, and became an even bigger role model to a new generation of kids:

Peterson became the seventh player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, plowing through the Green Bay Packers for a 20-yard gain that put him over the top in the third quarter Sunday.

Peterson entered the game needing 102 yards to join O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis and Chris Johnson in the 2,000-yard club. Peterson is the only one to do it after reconstructive knee surgery.

While most of the coverage tomorrow will be on Peterson’s numbers, the story behind the story is the speed with which he recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. SI’s Ben Reiter has a great piece (not online yet) titled ‘All Day All The Way’ that details the mindset of a man Americans would be wise to duplicate. Peterson’s first thought after the injury was to get in touch with a boy in the stands to whom he promised an autograph before the game; the child was tracked down and a jersey was signed “All Day/God Bless”.

Peterson’s second thought:

[He] would not just return to being the best running back in the world, which he’d been less than an hour before; he’d be even better, and he’d do it not in two years, or in one, but in 263 days — in time for the Vikings’ 2012 season opener. “It was remarkable to see how quickly he was able to digest it, get his mind around it and move forward,” says [Vikings’ athletic trainer Eric Sugarman.]

“My mind just clicked over,” Peterson explains. “I’ll come back. I’ll bounce back better.”

Sometimes, you have a bad day.  Sometimes, you have a really bad day. And sometimes, when giant football players fall onto your knee it just seems like the universe is doing its best to make you go into a deep dark funk you’ll never dig your way out of. Every obstacle in life isn’t really an obstacle, but an opportunity to prove to yourself and the world just how remarkable the human spirit is, how resilient the human body can be and how in imaginative the human mind can be when it is given a direct order with specific instructions.

Tony Robbins once said that the brain acts like a servomechanism when it’s given a very specific mission, and he’s right. Like a heat-seeking missile, someone who lays out a plan, believes in that plan and commits themselves to it for the long haul usually has a level of success they could be proud of.

Tomorrow, someone will lament the fact that they don’t have Adrian Peterson’s genetics. That same person will not have heard Vikings punter Chris Kluwe talk about the scars on Peterson’s legs: “[His scars] are from constantly just churning though people.”

Peterson is a machine. He is the ‘Gears of War’. He grinds through adversity, he grinds through opposing defenses and he grinds through that gnawing pessimism that well all have on a day-to-day basis. He does this to realize his full potential.

On Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012 Adrian Peterson fell eight yards shy of breaking the all-time single season rushing record. He did this after blowing out his ACL on Dec. 24, 2011. My bet is, he’ll use those eight yards as motivation to chase down many, many records in the years to come.

Somewhere, a little kid watched his efforts and took away lessons that will propel him him to great heights. Next time someone tells you “it’s just a sport” just laugh it off. When you watch to learn it is in fact much, much more.

Thanks, Adrian. God bless.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

8 comments

    1. Eric Dickerson was amazing. I was pretty darn young when he was in his prime, but he definitely sticks out. I think there was a McDonald’s commercial that went, “Eric Dickerson — he’s fast as a fox!” that I still hear every time someone says his name.

      I was always a Marcus Allen fan growing up. I used to love the Raiders until Al Davis tried to ruin his career. To this day I can’t stand the Raiders and don’t really have my own “team.” I followed Marcus to K.C. and then when he retired … I was lost. My dad was always a big Steelers fan. If someone forced me to give a team, I’d go with them. Their history includes Franco Harris, another classic.

    2. I read some interesting stats last evening. One is that Peterson had many less attempts than Dickerson this season. That says a lot about AP’s natural talent level. I was 19 when Dickerson set the record; those early 80s Rams teams were “run, run, run” … a “vanilla” offense as then-coach John Robinson called it. But it sure worked. The Rams’ problem those days was that there was always one spectacular stand-out NFC team that kept them from reaching the Super Bowl — whether it be San Fran, Dallas or that great mid-80s Bears team.

      I also forgot that Dickerson still has the rookie RB rushing record (in ’83) at over 1,800 yards.

    3. i believe it was a Wheaties commercial:
      Phil Simms he won a superbowl……Mark Gastineu he loves to Rock and Roll…..Eric Dickerson he’s fast as a fox…..Walter Peyton!…he’s on this BOX!”:

  1. No worries, Hube! I remember rooting for the Rams when they won the Super Bowl back in 1999 and also in 2001 when they lost to New England. The Greatest Show on Turf.

  2. I’m also a Colts fan, largely because I needed a team to root for during the Vikings’ playoff drought following that 41-0 loss to the Giants in 2000-2001. I still follow them even though Manning is in Denver now.

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