Cracks, Cuts and Comebacks

Adrian Peterson has a golden life littered with roadblocks, tragedies, injuries, loss and heartache, but beaming with success. His pops named him “All Day” because he never stops. The hood named him Purple Jesus because he’s the No. 1 pigskin peddler on the NFL set. Take his total life experiences into account and he’s really The Comeback Kid.   

Peterson learned the art of resilience at a young age. He lost his older brother, Brian, to a drunk driver and used football as medication. He starred in Pee Wee football and his dad – a former shooting guard at Idaho State, whose NBA aspirations were shattered by an accidental shooting –  was the coach.

When Peterson was 13, his father was bagged for laundering money for a crack racket and went to prison. The lure of drug money entrapped his dad, a Wal-Mart truck driver with 10 kids, making just $8 an hour. It was a tremendous loss to a black family trying to survive in The Lone Star State. With his mother as support, however, Peterson rebounded strongly in his dad’s absence. He did his thing in basketball, track and football, creating a future for himself beyond Palestine, Texas.

His prolific talent is only half of what comprises Purple Jesus. Peterson’s complex life, familiar ghetto story and resilient nature, also endears him to the hood. His street credibility is bonkers. Like Peterson, the hood is resilient. In the trap, people tend to deal with adversity ranging from imprisoned family to illegal guns and drugs and the absence of fathers for extended and crucial periods of child development. These are elements of hood life that few have the opportunity to rise above.  Peterson makes a habit out of it and inspires in the process.  

 His 2012 return from potentially catastrophic knee surgery is his dopest comeback yet.   

Less than 10 months after surgery, Peterson’s return has boosted a Minnesota team that was 3-12 in 2011. A.D.’s rushing has offense –strapped Vikes, sitting at 5-3, two games behind the 6-1 Chicago Bears. Purple Jesus has risen to the NFL lead in yardage (775) and yards per game (96.9). He’s not contact- shy either. He’s putting in work with a league-second 174 touches. All the doubt is out of the window. The explosion is still official, and he’s breaking dudes down like the old A.D., forcing a league-high 28 missed tackles.

He’s on his way to the greatest major knee recovery ever, for a running back. In the hood, they like to do it big. A.D. doesn’t know how to half step. His life reflects that. He just picks up the pieces, barrels ahead and shines.  

Like Peterson’s body, life on the margins can be brittle as a potato chip and tough as nails. It’s full of people who have a desire to be great, but lack resources to make it happen. There’s a cruel hypocrisy that lives within the hood culture. Peterson’s dad and mom were college students with great intentions, but the criminal element was always hovering. Peterson has ridiculous ambitions, like wanting to rush for 2,500 yards in a season, but his body won’t allow him to fulfill these goals. Falling down and getting back up is what A.D. does.  It’s a hood staple too.

At times, his life has been a movie – celebrity-ridden, affluent and NFL billboard plentiful. It’s also been a tragic Broadway play, with the leading characters being gun play, cocaine, loss, family and failure.

As a freshman at Oklahoma, Peterson finished second in the coveted Heisman voting. His next two years were bitter sweet as a high-ankle sprain and broken collarbone limited his next two seasons.  The upside was, his dad came back from prison in 2006. Peterson left Oklahoma after his junior season with the future looking brighter than 2 Chainz grill piece. But before he was able to enjoy becoming the 7th pick of the NFL’s first-round by the Minnesota Vikings, he had to endure the murder of another half- brother, the night before the NFL Combine.

That setback didn’t knock his hustle, either. Like Bumpy Johnson did Dutch Shultz in the movie Hoodlum, Peterson stormed the NFL, breaking the single-game rushing record with 296 yards. A week later, Peterson injured his LCL in his right knee against the Packers. In typical gritty, A.D. style, Peterson got right in two months and returned to torch Detroit for two scores. Despite doubters, Peterson was confident he could handle this second knee problem, because he man-handled the first one. But many people felt that this injury might knock him out the box.  And even if his knee held, would his psyche? A July arrest for resisting arrest added more turmoil and media attention to Peterson’s critical rehab.

The clarity Whitney Houston’s voice lost because of drugs was obvious. Her presence was felt, but her impact as a vocalist was compromised. Many thought A.D.’s banged up knees would meet the same fate. Even Mr. Workhorse himself, Jerry Rice, felt Peterson was rushing his return. Seems Rice and the other doubters were wrong. 

It’s all good. They didn’t really know A.D.  As usual, when his pads were against the stadium walls, he came back. A mere return wasn’t going to cut it either. He wanted that T.I. treatment. Peterson let opposing defenses know that the King was back, and with every tough yard gained, he’s snatching the throne back.

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