At home, Vikings star can put his fire on ice

  • Article by: KEVIN SEIFERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 4, 2007 - 10:56 PM

Adrian Peterson has exceeded expectations on the field, but fans are still getting to know the man off it.

No one blinked. The pool game continued without interruption in Adrian Peterson's basement. Across the room, digital football players still darted on a video screen. Upstairs, cabbage kept right on boiling over the stovetop. Family members never looked up from their chores.

Only the words still hung in the air.

Peterson, the Vikings' newest star, had been asked to reveal his long-term plans for his budding career. Amid the noise, he turned stoic.

"I want to be the best player to ever play this game," he said, pausing for effect before measuring his next pool shot.

Relatives and friends who pass through Peterson's new home in Eden Prairie are accustomed to high expectations and laid-back fun. But for the Vikings and their suffering fans, everything he says and does these days is suddenly worth watching.

Peterson, a rookie who has the most rushing yards among NFL running backs as midseason approaches, is now shouldering the Vikings' hopes in an otherwise disappointing season.

Away from the game, Peterson, a high school legend in Texas and collegiate record-setter in Oklahoma, is a homebody whose idea of a big day is taking Adeja, his 2-year-old daughter, to Valleyfair.

"He knows he's a good football player," said his mother, Bonita Jackson. "He always has been. He doesn't have to prove it to anyone. So he's just down to earth and can be humble. Sometimes I think all he really wants to do is just have fun with his family."

Earth tones and memorabilia

The Vikings' first-round draft pick in April, Peterson started his career by rushing for at least 100 yards in four of his first five games. After his second, a 102-yard effort in a Sept. 23 loss at Kansas City, Peterson planned a quiet Sunday evening at the five-bedroom house he shares with his brother Derrick and a rotation of other family members and friends.

Offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie had other ideas. It was McKinnie's birthday, and he knew there was only one way Peterson would attend a gathering that McKinnie had planned.

A few hours later, two buses of partygoers pulled into Peterson's driveway.

"I was a little surprised, but I set the ground rules," he said, starting with the instructions on his welcome mat: Wipe Your Paws.

Indeed, the house appeared intact a few weeks later on a brisk October night. Peterson lounged comfortably on a leather couch in a living room that defies the tastes of most 22-year-olds. He and Derrick handled the decorating after moving in two months ago, and Adrian said: "I wanted it to be comfortable, and I wanted it to be me."

This, then, is Adrian Peterson: earth-toned colors in every room. A wall of leather-bound magazines, mostly Outlook and Eclectic. ("Haven't read one," he says, "but I might.")

There are a pair of twin beds and a closet full of toys for Adeja, who lives with her mother in Texas but visits often. The master bathroom includes the requisite whirlpool and walk-in closet, as well as the slightly eccentric pair of Julius Caesar busts imbedded in the walls.

"Sorry it's a little messy in here," Peterson says as he removes a single tissue from the floor.

Downstairs, the basement walls are purple and the ceiling is painted black in honor of his new team. A Vikings logo covers one wall. Draped over a chair in the corner is the jersey Peterson wore Oct. 14 in Chicago, when he gained a team-record 224 yards and scored three touchdowns. It is grass-stained and smells foul.

"I'll never wash this," he says, holding it close to his face. "I don't want to forget what it was like."

Aunt Ola and Uncle Larry, just arrived from the family's hometown of Palestine, Texas, are busy in the kitchen. Tonight's menu includes boiled cabbage, macaroni and cheese, cornbread and sweet potato pie.

The garage houses a Range Rover and a BMW 760, but from outside the home looks like many others in suburban Eden Prairie.

"Where I came from, we lived in apartments, or in a house that was never anything to brag about," said Peterson, whose rookie contract guarantees him $17 million. "I always dreamed of making it into a nice house. But I didn't need anything really big or crazy. Just something that feels right."

His neighbors have knocked on the door, offering cookies and other welcome gifts like good Minnesotans. Valleyfair, the Mall of America and an occasional dinner sojourn constitute Peterson's exploration of the Twin Cities -- which he curtailed when "it got too cold," he said.

It is 45 degrees as Peterson speaks. His climactic adjustment still is underway.

"When I got drafted here, that's the first crazy thought that went into my head," Peterson said. "I'd always heard how cold it is. People tell me that [45] is nothing, that it feels good. To me, that is freezing."

He let out a sigh.

"I can't even think what it will feel like this winter," he adds. "I guess I'm going to have to get used to it."

Don't believe the angry talk

The story is out, as told by the waves of national reporters who already have visited. Adrian Peterson is angry. That's what makes him so good, why he runs around some defenders and then conjures the power to run over others.

At 8, Peterson watched as his 9-year-old brother Brian was struck and killed by a drunken driver. His father, Nelson, spent nearly eight years in prison for laundering drug money. In February, a stepbrother, Chris Paris, was shot and killed in Houston.

One problem: "He's not angry at anything," said Vikings fullback Tony Richardson, a 13-year veteran. "This is one of the calmest, most humble superstars I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot."

Peterson laughs at the idea as he clicks through channels of Wednesday night television.

"I've been through some things, and that gave me a passion on the field," he said. "Those are the things that keep me going. But I'm not angry. I'm not angry at the world. It's just a competitive game, and I want to win."

That passion emerges briefly as he takes on Derrick in a mostly friendly pool game.

"You better just sit back and watch what's fixing to happen here," Adrian tells a visitor.

"See what I have to deal with?" Derrick says, laughing.

Dinner awaits, and the game ends early. Adrian hustles upstairs.

He dreams of unprecedented professional success. But on this night, amid the happy commotion, it seems Adrian Peterson already has most of what he ever wanted.

"I look at all this and realize I am truly blessed," he said. "I know that. I've faced enough adversity in my life that what I have now means something to me.

"I know it's easy for someone to say that. But you'll see, that's just the type of guy I am."

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