Palestine’s Adrian Peterson Was the Best of His Era — ‘All Day Long’
Not since the likes of Earl Campbell, Billy Sims or David Overstreet had East Texas seen a running back as dominating and intimidating as this kid out of Palestine, Texas.
"A.D.," they called him. It was the nickname his father gave him as a kid, because he could run "All Day Long."
And that he did (and still does). We know Adrian Peterson now as arguably the best running back in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings. But, years before, A.D. was doing his job to put his town of about 18,000 on the nationwide map.
He did that job well -- well enough to be an East Texas legend, and you could certainly make the argument that Peterson is the best running back to ever come out of East Texas.
Where He Came From
The son of a college basketball player and a three-time state champion track star, Peterson certainly had the genes. His mother, Bonita Brown, had starred at Westwood High School as a sprinter and long-jumper. His father, Nelson Peterson, played college ball at Idaho State.
At age 7, Peterson saw his 9-year-old brother, Brian, killed by a drunk driver while riding his bike. He used sports -- namely, football -- as somewhat of an escape. He was driven and hyper -- hence, "All Day" -- and just wanted to run.
Oh, did he run.
Peterson only played two seasons on the varsity football team at Palestine High School. But it didn't take long into his junior season that college coaches around the country started hearing about this "Peterson kid" in East Texas.
He finished his junior season with 2,051 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. Months before his senior season started, high school football nation was having A.D. Mania.
Peterson was the consensus No. 1 high school football recruit in the nation. College coaches flocked to his practices and games. Scholarship offers poured in. High school football fans abandoned their own teams to go see the "Palestine running back" on Friday night.
He was 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, tough, lightning fast and intimidating. His running style was compared to Eric Dickerson, but his presence was compared to only one: Earl Campbell.
He rushed for 317 yards and six touchdowns on 17 carries in the first half against Nacogdoches. Two days later, he was on the sidelines for a Dallas Cowboys game against the New York Giants. Larry Allen, the Cowboys' legendary offensive lineman, had invited him. Peterson was the most popular face in the room at the Cowboys' postgame press conference.
Peterson averaged 11.2 yards per carry his senior season on his way to rushing for 2,960 yards and 32 touchdowns.
No high school player since has seen the kind of fanfare Peterson received when it came to picking a college, even in today's ever-growing coverage of recruiting. He was down to Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, UCLA and Miami before announcing on national TV during the U.S. Army All-American game that he would be a Sooner.
Photographs of his National Signing Day event at Palestine High were seen all over the country, including in USA Today.
After High School
We all know this story. Peterson burst on the college football scene as a freshman, rushing for an NCAA freshman record 1,925 yards (including 225 against Texas) and finished as runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. Sports Illustrated named him to its All-Decade Team for college football.
He was the seventh pick overall in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Vikings, and it didn't take long to establish himself as a force in the NFL.
Peterson was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2007, and after five seasons, has rushed for 6,752 yards, 64 touchdowns and a 4.8 yards per carry average. He comes into the 2012 season after tearing his ACL late last season.
So, with plenty of NFL years likely left, it remains to be seen just how much more Peterson's legacy will grow.