We told you in September in Purple Jesus Rises From The Land of The Forgotten. Don’t sleep on A.D.
Few football heads outside of Minnesota are talking about the X-Factor in the NFC North and why the Vikings have a puncher’s chance to take the division or get a Wild Card berth.
Everybody is high on the Aaron Rodgers gravy train and picking Green Bay to torch the NFC North, but ignoring the potential impact of Adrian Peterson's return is a grave mistake.
When I battled my Shadow League colleague Rob Parker on Fox Sports Live at the beginning of this NFL season, he said A.D. was finished: too old at 30 to defy the history of decline for most great running backs.
I disagreed and Peterson proved me a genius (not really but I nailed this one) on Sunday when at the age of 30, he became the second-oldest player to win the NFL rushing title. Peterson had the title locked before he took the field for Minnesota’s 20-13 win over the Packers last night at Lambeau Field.
Peterson finished the season with 1,485 yards, the third-highest of his career. He entered the day with a 64-yard lead over Doug Martin, who only managed 48 yards Sunday afternoon against Carolina to finish with 1,402. Peterson joined former Jets baller Curtis Martin (31) and Cleveland’s Marion Motley (30) to become the third player at least 30 or older to win the crown.
Life is a long-winding road of peaks and valleys. Even the journey of a sports immortal such as Peterson often encompasses magnificently executed moments and colossal failures. The Shadow League also told you back in 2012 that he was "The Comeback Kid."
His life is a pattern of overcoming tragedy and using football as a bridge to heal his inner wounds.
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. When Peterson was 13, his Pee Wee football coach and father, an $8-per-hour Wal-Mart truck driver with 10 kids, got caught up in a crack racket and went to prison
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.
That’s Purple Jesus in a nutshell. He has a rubber band man flow that not only keeps him in the game, but achieving new heights. At this time last season, Peterson was in the headlines, but it wasn’t for his legendary exploits on the gridiron, or being a throwback feature running back in an age of spread offenses and dual-option QB's.
Peterson took a nine-month absence from the team when he was indicted on Sept. 12 of the 2014 season for injuring his child while disciplining him with a switch.
His immaculate rep took a hard hit in some circles. In criminal court, Peterson pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of misdemeanor reckless assault as part of a plea deal with prosecutors to resolve his felony child abuse case. He paid a fine and did 80 hours of community service. He ignored the doubters, returned this season and led Minnesota to an 11-5 record and NFC North Division title.
The value of his life story can’t be understated. It’s all about the grind. If any player could come back from a year of inactivity and still be as sharp as a Wu Tang sword, it is A.D.
Just eight months after career-threatening ACL and MCL tears in 2011, Peterson not only came back quickly and effectively, but he turned up his game, rushing for 2,097 yards. It was the second-most ever for a running back in a single season, eight yards shy of the great Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105, set in ’84, when MJ’s Moonwalk was a novelty and Jheri Curl juice was still dripping from player’s helmets.
Peterson, also won rushing titles in 2008 and 2012 and became the eighth player to win three or more NFL rushing titles. The others were Jim Brown, who won it eight times, Dickerson, Emmitt Smith, O.J. Simpson, Steve Van Buren and Barry Sanders, who each claimed four, and Earl Campbell, who also collected three.
There are only a handful of NFL stars who impact the game as impressively as Peterson. He’s a rare game-changer who is performing at an All-Pro level despite his age, past injuries and public relations hits that would conquer the average baller.
According to ESPN, Peterson said this week that the rushing title didn't necessarily mean more to him than his first two because of his 15-game absence last year, but added, "I like turning people into believers. Even when I win, people will still doubt me. That’s just the way of life: You have people who will believe, people who will doubt you, say this and say that. That’s the way of the world.”