Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson is one of the greatest running backs of all time. Drafted in 2007 by Minnesota Vikings with the 7th overall pick, he went on to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award in 2012. He is a 3-time NFL rushing yards leader (2008, 2012, 2015), and he was voted in the Pro Bowl 7 times. He is the rare kind that exhibits top-level strength, agility, speed, and vision while being known for his mental toughness.
Seizing the opportunity that Adrian Peterson is on his first visit to China, Yutang Sports interviewed this living legend and learned about how he viewed all sorts of things.
Yutang Sports: This is the first time that you have visited China. What prompted you for this visit?
Peterson: It’s time to go international. China has always been a place that I want to visit. Growing up, everything that was made, it seemed it was made in China. So, it’s a place that I’ve always dreamed about visiting, just to learn about the culture. Now that I have the platform and the opportunity to come here, I just wish to learn more about the culture and build relationships.
Yutang Sports: You have played football your whole life. Here in China though, basketball is way more popular, with the NBA being the most well-known American professional sports league. Do you think football has the chance to catch up with or even surpass the popularity of basketball?
Peterson: I think it has an opportunity to catch up. It’ll take a long time for it to surpass basketball, just because individually, basketball is more visible to people. If you turn on TV, you got Dwayne Wade’s face, or you got Yao Ming’s face there. Basketball is a sport that’s been played here long. I think football is a sport that’s picking up. I was told there are 16 teams here, and it’s becoming more of a sport here. I think it will take a long time to surpass basketball, but we definitely can make it a blueprint so people will be more aware of football players from around the country.
Yutang Sports: Let’s talk about yourself. Your father gave you the nickname ‘All Day’. Do you think you have lived up to that nickname?
Peterson: I think so far, I kind of have lived up to it. It came from having a lot of energy, and always going 100 miles per hour. I’ve learned how to contain that, but sometimes I let it out. I feel ultimately, I still have a lot to accomplish, but thus far, I think I’ve lived up to it.
Yutang Sports: When you announced that you would enter the 2007 NFL draft, the media and some teams were concerned about your injuries that you suffered in college. Otherwise you would have been drafted at a much higher position. However, next season will be your 13th season in the league. Obviously，their concerns about your durability back then have been proven to be invalid. Early injuries do not necessarily prevent a player from having a great career. Do you think teams should focus less on a player’s injury history, and more on other factors, like talent, will, work ethic, and professionalism?
Peterson: I do. I definitely agree with you, me being a perfect example. When I was drafted, my collarbone was still broken. Actually, I had broken it at the beginning of the season in my junior year, and I came back and played the Fiesta Bowl, which was the last bowl game at the end of the season, and I rebroke it. I didn’t even know that I rebroke it until I got it looked at when I was down in Arizona training.
I do feel like they should focus more on the talent and the qualities that the player has, and what they’ll bring to the team, instead of looking at their injury history. Because, for me, I feel that it did make me slip a little bit, even though I got picked No. 7 overall. I feel like that hurt me going in the top 5 or the top 2.
But I have an appreciation for that, because I’ve always been this type of a person that, I like people to realize what they have, and to be able to do enough research to say, ‘you know what, this is the guy we want to go with. That collarbone will be healed X amount of months, but once it’s healed, we know we’ll have the type of a player and a person we want.’ I feel like they should view it in a different way, but ultimately, as an organization, they should be able to evaluate the player for who he is because they pay scouts so much money a year. I think they should be able to do a great evaluation to know that they are bringing in the right player.
Yutang Sports: You won the 2012 NFL Most Valuable Player award, and was ranked by your fellow players as the best player in 2013. How did it feel to be honored in this way?
Peterson: It felt great. It meant a lot, especially considering the year that I came off of. I’d torn my ACL the year before, and I had so many people doubt me and count me out. To come back and have the kind of season I had, it was a blessing. It was confirmation that you can do all things you put your mind to. I just kept the faith and believed in myself even when surrounded with people who didn’t believe me. And I have had a great supporting cast as well. To be voted No 1 by my peers, it just went to show how they really appreciated my grind and the sacrifices I made to come back.
Yutang Sports: But from the perspective of a fan, if you didn’t have that injury, you probably would have broken Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record.
Peterson: Well, there were numerous opportunities throughout that year when I look back on it, because I was only a first down away from surpassing it. There were so many players that got called bad because of holding, there were so many missed opportunities by me where I could have gone this way or that way. So, when I look at it in that light, you know what? It wasn’t just meant to be. I had the best season of my career after the injury, so I don’t feel like the injury had anything to do with keeping me from getting there. It just wasn’t meant to happen that year. Or it would have.
To be continued here.