Nice Guys Finish First

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Quick math question, what’s greater: 2,097 or 9?

Seems like quite an obvious answer, right? Unfortunately, in the days following the Minnesota Vikings win over the Green Bay Packers, the majority of news stories focused in on something that Adrian Peterson did not do instead of celebrating what he did do. Let me assure you, Mr. Peterson, the two thousand ninety seven yards that you carried the Vikings on your back are infinitely more staggering than the miscellaneous nine yards you needed over the course of a 16 game season. But as impressive as each yard Peterson gained this season was, they were not the most important runs he endured during 2012. Not by a long shot.

There were no defenders bearing down on him, no blocking patterns to follow or cutback lanes to identify. In fact, he didn’t even have the ball. But when Adrian Peterson pushed off into a sprint for the first time in the winter of 2012, he knew this run and every single one that followed would be the most important runs of his life. After having successful surgery performed just six days after tearing his ACL and MCL in a Christmas Eve matchup against the Washington Redskins, it was clear to everyone that there was no such thing as easy road back for Adrian Peterson. Whether you looked at his job security (the Vikings had Toby Gerhart, a decorated Stanford alum who rushed for 109 yards on only 11 carries against the Redskins following Peterson’s injury) or his financial security (at the time of his injury, Peterson’s contract did not include guaranteed money), Peterson was not entitled to very much without two key ligaments in his knee that allowed him to be the most dynamic running back in the NFL since his rookie season in 2007. But this was his journey now; this was the path that was being laid before him. As he was carted off the field on the chilly December day, do not think for a second that Adrian Peterson sulked or even questioned why such a terrible injury had happened to him. Because while everyone was concentrated on him, Adrian Peterson was concentrated on someone else.

Before the game, Adrian had seen a young Vikings fan in the crowd that brought a sign to the game that said “only thing I want for Christmas is Adrian Peterson to sign my jersey.” Adrian made a promise that after the game, he would make his way over to his admirer and sign his name as an early Christmas gift. But needless to say, if Peterson was unable to walk then he surely was not going to be able to make it back out onto the field no matter what the reason may be. Instead, while team doctors were poking at his throbbing knee, Peterson asked a Vikings official to bring his jersey back to the locker room for him to sign and then bring it directly to a young man holding a sign that Peterson quoted verbatim. While everyone else worried about whether his career was ruined, Adrian Peterson made sure that one fan’s Christmas would not be ruined.

It’s been said before that first impressions are everything. That our first instinct is our truest action. These clichés could not reign more true than in the case of Adrian Peterson. In a moment of despair, he was selfless. And it set the tone for his entire grueling road back from a devastating knee injury. He was bound and determined to not be defined by one moment in time but instead let the path he was about to travel dictate his true legacy. So while he grinded out sprints and powered through different offseason tests, Peterson made sure to give weekly updates to his fans via Twitter that ensured them that he was working as hard as humanly possible in his rehab.

Despite his reassurances, there were always doubters. Doctors told him that ACL and MCL injuries can often alter an entire career. Reporters, analysts and fans alike all accepted the fact that he would never be as good as he was before the injury. And they were right. He was better.

But not just a little bit better. Adrian Peterson put together one of the greatest single season performances of all-time…and it was probably even better than you realize. He was brilliant in every facet of the rushing attack and a look into some detailed statistics will show you that Adrian Peterson excelled most when the challenges got tougher. Let’s break it down with some visual aids:

# Attempt of game

Attempts 1-10

11-20

21-30

31-40

Yards per Attempt

5.6

6.2

6.7

7.6

2315

While we preach at The Drive that the statistics take a back seat to the story, some numbers just cannot be overlooked. These particular statistics illustrate the mentality that Adrian Peterson took with him the moments immediately after his injury and every single day during the Vikings run to the playoffs: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

But he did not just keep his head down and plow forward in his process, Peterson was constantly aware of the example he was setting for onlookers around the country. He made sure to stay free of any unwarranted guarantees or pitying complaints about his future because he knew his words had never defined his personality as a person or a football player. He stayed focused on the efforts of his foundation, the All Day Foundation which raises awareness and funds for at-risk children, because he knew that he was still far more blessed than so many people around him. Finally, when Hurricane Sandy tore through the Northeast, an area Peterson has no ties to, he quickly donated numerous items to charities helping the victims including a signed, game-worn jersey. Of course, this wasn’t the first time he had spared one of his own jerseys. It was the second time in as many chances that Adrian Peterson gave the shirt off his back in hope that he could make someone else’s day just a little bit better. In his own words, Adrian Peterson was driven to leave a legacy of perseverance that would forever overshadow a challenging moment in time:

4

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Jon Reaves
Writer/Co-Founder of “The Drive”

Follow me on Twitter @Jon_Reaves

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