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: Speaking about your injury. Most experts said it would take a full year to recover, but you got back after only 9 months. Weren’t you afraid that you might further injure yourself?
Peterson: No, I wasn’t. I know we all believe in our own higher power. But for me, it was all about faith and putting in the work, and knowing that the guy I serve (God) says I can do anything I put my mind to. I can do all things that strengthen me. That has always been my mindset, but I’ve been around long enough to see a lot of people not approach it with the same mental toughness. I had to go through a lot of stuff that was painful, that early process of recovery from my ACL injury, but it helped speed up the recovery time.
There were things that I did at home that kind of broke that barrier down. I was being smart about what I was doing, like I would walk up the stairs, put a little pressure on it just to get those muscles firing. I wouldn’t fully bear away on it, but I would put a little weight on it to get those muscles firing and waking up. It was painful because the muscles weren’t where I need them to be. It was just painful in general. Mentally I was able to push little things, and ultimately, that helped me come back faster and stronger.
Yutang Sports: Most of the MVP awards are won by quarterbacks. How hard do you think it is for a running back to win an MVP award?
Peterson: I think it’s hard, but it’s possible to happen. For me, it feels good to be able to put that step on it. It’s a quarterbacks’ league, but as a running back, we can make our presence felt as well. It shouldn’t be rushing for 2000 yards every time to get an MVP. There are running backs that are capable of really accomplishing great things, so I feel like if a running back runs for 2000 yards, they should really win the MVP that year. Some guys kind of get snubbed throughout the year, Chris Johnson is the guy I feel like should have won the MVP after he surpassed 2000 yards his year. A couple of other guys too. It’s just a feat that doesn’t happen. Not more than 10 people have ran for over 2000 yards. So, every running back that has ran for 2000 yards plus should definitely be hoisting that MVP trophy. But, I don’t know, it’s just such a quarterbacks’ league, and it’s unfortunate. I just hope we can continue to make our presence felt. We are not going to just let the quarterbacks take over.
Yutang Sports: You just signed with the Redskins for another two years, but the Redskins have missed the playoffs for three years in a row. You’ve been there for a season now. Do you think the Redskins have a better chance this year?
Peterson: I feel we have a better chance. We were one game away from the playoffs last year. We had 20 people on IR list. And out of the 20, 13 of those guys were starters and second-string guys, and we were just one game away with a fourth-string quarterback. With the talent we have, the way guys really compete, for me personally, I was able to look back and know that, once we get guys back healthy, of course we are going to add on some additional guys during the off-season to help us in different positions, which we have done, and that right there alone is going make us better, and then to get guys back healthy as well, we have just as good a chance to win the championship as the next team. So, I feel like we have everything in place to be able to accomplish what we want accomplished as a team.
Yutang Sports: You have been through a lot of hardships and setbacks. You face every challenge head on, and you always come out on top. Would you give some advice as to how regular folks should deal with setbacks in their life?
Peterson: It comes down to faith. You have to ultimately believe and understand that we are unique individuals. We can’t even grasp how unique we are as individuals. Just base off that and know that we have the higher power. We are capable of doing some incredible things.
My belief is, I’m told that my guy will never put more on me than I can handle or I can bear. So, it’s like anything that I go through, I can overcome. I can get through it. It’s going to be tough, it’s going be hard. Some of those things you’ll have to get through, it might be painful, but ultimately, I can overcome that. So, no matter what it is I face, I grind it out, and I find myself coming out on top each time. I’ve been doing it as a young kid, the same process, the same mindset. I had to grit and grind, because it’s not easy all the time. I’ve seen myself come out, cut up, beat up a little bit, but I’ve come out of the storm. I’ve just always applied those things. For me, after 34 years, it’s been successful.
Yutang Sports: What prompted you and your wife to start the Adrian & Ashley Peterson Family Foundation? What do you aim to achieve with this foundation?
Peterson: I’ve always done work for the community during my career. So, I’m not a stranger to getting down in the community and helping the community through my first foundation as me and my wife decided to start our foundation together. She got me more involved to change the scenery. So, we started A & A Peterson Family Foundation.
We want to focus more on STEM and robotics. Our kids go to STEM schools, so it made sense. We actually have been working with a STEM team out of Colorado who host the World STEM tournament down in Houston each year. They have team from China, from all across the world, go there and then compete. Last year we had an opportunity to take our boys, and they had such a wonderful time, just seeing the technologies that these kids are inventing. They are the future engineers. We intended it not only to inspire our kids, but to inspire the kids we helped. So, we had a team from Colorado come in and we did put on a little event at our gym--I own a gym in Houston. We let them know how our equipment works, and we ask them to enhance the equipment because they are the future engineers, We show them how the work they do applies to a lot of the equipment that we use as well.
Not only that, but just giving back to the community. Like last year in D.C., we put on a Christmas event where we were able to bring together some military families, the parents of which were deployed. We were able to take those kids Christmas shopping and feed them. So, it’s just all about giving back. Having the platform that I have, giving back out to the community has always come back tenfold.