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Adrian Petersen grew up in a trailer in eastern Texas. He lived in Palestine, a town of roughly 17,000 people, and he lived out in the country, where pretty much the only people in his immediate vicinity were related to him - uncles, aunts and other older family members, not to mention his close family. "And when I say I stayed out in the country," Peterson says, "I'm talking about the regular street turns to gravel, and that street turns to dirt." By all accounts, Peterson didn't have a lot of money growing up.
But he had good genetics. His father Nelson Peterson played Division I basketball at Idaho State University and had professional aspirations before suffering a career-ending leg injury in a freak gun accident. His mother Bonita Jackson was a three-time state champion sprinter in high school and ran track on scholarship at the University of Houston. Even Peterson's uncle, Ivory Lee Brown, had a short stint in the NFL as a running back with the Phoenix Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings.
Peterson had a strong work ethic, too, developed early on. When he was a kid, his dad took him to the YMCA to lift weights. "And still to this day," Peterson says, "my dad gets up at 5:30 every morning and works out. So I used to lift weights with him at the Y when I was 7 or 8 years old."
The DNA and the work ethic Peterson had, but the kid was resourceful, too. He could find a workout in just about anything: old water jugs he found lying around that he'd fill with sand or water ("'Cause I couldn't afford weights"), tie a rope to and drag on the ground behind him at a dead sprint.
He would also tie the jugs to either end of a pole, put that pole on his back and do squats with it. He'd find the steepest hill he could out in the country and run up it full speed, then run up it backward, then do backward lunges up it. He even got a speed workout, not by choice but out of fear, when his auntie's Great Dane would chase him. "I found myself running from that dog often," Peterson says.
And that's where it all started. Out in the country, in Texas. Short on money but not on natural ability or creativity or work ethic. In Texas, where Division I football players are mass-produced and Peterson was the best of them all - the No. 1-rated high school football player in the United States upon graduating in 2004, after rushing for 2,960 yards and 32 touchdowns his senior year alone.
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In Texas, where if you can somehow manage to dream as big as the Southern sky and match that with a hearty dose of sweat and pain and perseverance, you might just be able to graduate to an even bigger life, one that hardly resembles a trailer out in the country off a dirt road. A life that finds you residing in the suburbs of Minneapolis and regarded as the NFL's best young running back - if not the best running back, period - following a brilliant rookie year with the Minnesota Vikings, and setting goals bigger than the Lone Star State: to win not just one Super Bowl ring but multiple rings and to become the best football player there ever was.