MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When Adrian Peterson was 7, he saw his older brother die in a bike accident when he was hit by a drunken driver.
For Peterson’s teenage years, his father was in prison. He grew up poor in east Texas. Shortly before the Minnesota Vikings drafted him in 2007, a half-brother, was shot and killed.
Long before Peterson began running through the NFL record book, he learned to turn tragedy into fuel for an exceptional career. Football has always been his escape, and now he’s dealing with more off-the-field strife.
One of Peterson’s sons, a victim of alleged child abuse, died Friday of severe head injuries suffered in the attack. The man charged in the case, Joseph Patterson, was home alone with the 2-year-old boy Wednesday and called 911 to report he was choking, according to police. Patterson was the boyfriend of the child’s mother.
Peterson missed practice Thursday to be in Sioux Falls, S.D., where the boy lived with his mother and Patterson. He returned to the Vikings on Friday.
“Things that I go through, I’ve said a thousand times, it helps me play this game to a different level,” he said after practice, about an hour after the child’s death. “I’m able to kind of release a lot of my stress through this sport, so that’s what I plan on doing.”
Twitter has been filled with public condolences for Peterson and his loved ones. From LeBron James to Barry Sanders to Josh Groban, his peers, opponents and admirers expressed their sadness and support.
“Praying for you and your family. May God give you the strength,” tweeted New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, whose team plays the Vikings on Oct. 21.
The Vikings play Carolina on Sunday, and Peterson promised to participate.
“I’ll be ready to roll, focused,” he said.
That’s no surprise to anyone who’s known him.
“The death of his brother at that young age drove him to want to be the very best that he could be,” said Steve Eudey, who was Peterson’s youth football coach and a mentor to him growing up. “Because in his opinion, Brian was always better than he was and he felt he had to live up to those expectations.”