Bachelor father Adrian Peterson would not tell ESPN the number of children he has brought into the world.
In an “E: 60” segment with ESPN’s Lisa Salters that aired Tuesday, the face of the Vikings’ franchise spoke publicly for the first time in depth about the tragic death of his 2-year-old in South Dakota.
Prosecutors indicted a Sioux Falls man Monday on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Ty Robert Ruffin. Investigators say the accused 27-year-old, who allegedly assaulted the toddler Oct. 9, was the boyfriend of the child’s mother.
Salters reported that Peterson first learned of Ty’s existence in August but didn’t see the tot until after receiving that fateful October phone call. “I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around it,” Peterson said.
“I was able to see him being … ” Peterson told ESPN, not completing the thought about what he observed at Ty’s hospital bedside.
“That was my first time. So that’s something I have to live with for the rest of my life. First time seeing my son, he was gone, basically.
“I just said I was sorry. Didn’t quite know, at the time, what I was sorry for, but I told him I loved him, you know, and that I miss him; I’m going to miss him. I kept telling him ‘I’m sorry.’ ”
Peterson was speaking indistinctly. I believe he also said he told his son, “ ‘Daddy was sorry.’ ”
ESPN showed what looked like a headline from TMZ about Peterson having another secret child. Salters reported, “Peterson has two children who live with him and his fiancée. But he won’t say how many children he has in total.”
Peterson: “I know the truth, and I’m comfortable with that knowledge.”
Salters did not ask Peterson about accuracy of TMZ.com, which speculated that he had seven children. But she did ask if such speculation hurt.
“Not really, you know,” Peterson said. “It really don’t hurt because I try to avoid it. I’m able to be strong and walk around with a smile on my face.”
Salters’ report also recounted other Peterson family tragedies.
While Peterson may been seen with a smile on his face, I seriously doubt his psyche will ever be able to erase from his memory the searing image of Ty on life support. Going to see that little boy in the final hours of his young life could not have been easy, even for someone who calls his football field persona “the assassin.” Traveling to South Dakota to see his son for the first and final time is something for which Peterson should be commended.
There are, indeed, many commendable aspects of Peterson’s life, most notably his charitable work on behalf of those less fortunate, including child-abuse victims. “Help me help victims of child abuse and neglect. Please join me at my Eat Big, Give Big Texas BBQ on 9/10! Get tix http://bit.ly/166BNHw,” Peterson tweeted on Aug. 31.
About 40 days later, Peterson tragically would have a child who was a victim of abuse.
Maybe this will be a wake-up for Peterson, who is bound to feel terrible guilt about how Ty died, emotions that he wouldn’t share with any reporter. The end of Ty’s life is one of those vivid illustrations of why fathering children is serious, not casual, business.
Peterson must know that you can’t exercise your responsibility to protect your kids when you don’t know they exist.
Peterson may have grown up with a different perspective on the nuclear family, as Salters reported that his mother, Bonita Jackson, a former University of Houston track star, and his father, Nelson Peterson, an Idaho State basketball star, never married.
Having unmarried parents was as much the norm for Peterson, as my parents’ making it crystal clear to me that I had better not get pregnant without being married. That established parental boundary, plus me having career objectives and taking charge of my own birth control, are the reasons I didn’t have accidents or incidents, back when my hormones led the way.
But perhaps Adrian Peterson, and other athletes facing the same life decisions, should heed the advice former NFLer Ray Lewis said he would give to his younger self: Wear a condom.
The day has come for Peterson to let the focus that makes him such a beast on the football field direct his personal behavior. In Ty’s name.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.