|Peterson's parents lay groundwork for success|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 29 April 2007 13:31|
Bonita Jackson brought the speed. As a high schooler, she ran the 100 meters in a blazing 11.3 seconds and represented the United States on the Junior Olympic team in Seoul, South Korea, in 1982.
Nelson Peterson's most significant work began 12 years after the birth of the future Minnesota Vikings running back, when he was sent to prison for eight years for laundering drug money.
The mother taught the son how to run. The father taught him about personal responsibility. Together, the parents helped Adrian Peterson deal with tragedy and heartbreak.
``My mom, she's funny. She's got a heart of gold,'' Peterson said Sunday. ``My dad has raised me to be a man. He wasn't there for me physically, but mentally he really helped me grow as a young man. I really got a lot from both of them.''
A day after being chosen seventh overall by the Vikings in the NFL draft, Peterson was flanked by his mother on his left and his father on his right as he spoke about fulfilling a lifelong dream that could've been derailed so many times along the way.
When Adrian was 7, his 8-year-old brother Brian was riding his bike when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver. His half brother, Chris Paris, was shot and killed in February, the night before Peterson worked out for scouts and coaches at the NFL Combine.
The biggest obstacle, however, came when his father was thrown behind bars when Adrian was 12, robbing him of the man who spent countless hours with him on the football field, forging a bond not even prison could break.
``It was a very trying time in Adrian's life,'' Jackson said. ``To have a dad there and then he's not there anymore, he struggled to get back. You're a 12-year-old kid, and a big part of you who is with you a lot in the summer is gone? That's a big blow.''
Nelson, a standout basketball player in high school and at Idaho State, explains his experience as ``a young guy that made a mistake and got involved in the drug world that I shouldn't have got involved in.''
``It was a hard time for me with my dad out of my life at a young age like that,'' Adrian said. ``At first it was real difficult. I just had to find a way to cope with it. We did a lot of stuff together.''
The father did everything he could to remain involved in the son's life, speaking to him on the phone often and preaching to him not to fall victim to the same temptations.
Without his father around, Jackson said Adrian ``rebelled'' before coming to grips with the situation.
That meant mom spent a lot of time chasing Adrian around. The only difference with this mom was, she could usually catch him.
``I didn't start beating my mom in running until I was going into my ninth-grade year,'' Adrian said. ``She was fast.''
Once he learned how to channel his anger and frustration away from his home life and onto the football field, there was no stopping him.
Adrian 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.
Injuries caused him to miss a total of 11 games in his next two seasons, but that was nothing compared to the adversity he faced in his personal life.
``That's what I admire about Adrian so much,'' Jackson said. ``The different obstacles that have come up, how he used them as motivation to do better and to succeed.''
Nelson is trying to do the same thing. He does volunteer work at an Oklahoma City hospital where he tells youngsters about the pitfalls of drugs and crime, much like he's done with his own children.
``When I got incarcerated, I realized that 'Hey, you did wrong, you gotta pay the consequences, serve your time,''' Nelson said. ``But I never got caught up in the prison life or the things that go on in prison because I knew that I still had responsibilities as a parent to raise Adrian and my other kids and teach them right. And I continue to do that.
``I taught him how to be a man. I taught him how to give a man a firm hand shake and look him in the eye and introduce himself.''
Peterson was listening. His handshake isn't just firm, it's viselike. And he's avoided the trouble - with the law and with the NCAA - that often hounds big-time stars.
``He learned from my mistakes,'' Nelson said. ``It's constantly a lesson to him. I always teach him, 'Don't let the things that your father has done and has been through be in vain. Learn from that. It's a lesson.'''