The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Top News

September 24, 2013

Former Bear Peterson -- minus the pads

MORRISON, Ill. -- Even in Chicago Bears shorts and a warm-up Georgia Southern dri-fit shirt, Adrian Peterson immediately strikes the eye as someone who, if not currently in the NFL, is just a couple of years removed.

The common narrative for the personality of a professional athlete is that, at some point, the dollars, the attention, the scores of fans can change a man, perhaps elevating him to the stratosphere of the gods either through the player’s own choosing or by the swarming influence and hoopla surrounding him daily. But Peterson -- a member of the Bears from 2002-09 -- doesn’t seem to fit that mold.

When the pads are gone, what’s left is a physical specimen who, for eight solid years, played on the biggest of stages in sports. Peterson was drafted out of GSU in the sixth round by Chicago after breaking the school’s all-time rushing record; he went on to a stellar career with the Bears where he assumed starting running back carries in the mid-2000s while composing a respectable resume as a two-way special teams threat.

When he appeared in Morrison, Ill. on Sunday for a promotional event with the Ebenezer Reformed Church, fans were ready to adorn the ex-ball carrier, themselves holding sports memorabilia and creating long lines in pursuit of autographs and pictures. Rather than fitting the athlete’s narrative, Peterson humbly accepted their attention and hospitality.

“I think now that God has a plan for me, and it was more than all-time leading rusher,” he said. “It was more than eight-year career with the Bears. It was to inspire, and I get it.”

His autobiography -- “Don’t Dis My Abilities” -- is a quasi-pun. Removing the first and the third words unlocks the one that has ruled Peterson’s whole life: disabilities.

Even while speaking to the whole congregation of a rural church, Peterson’s perceived flaw can still seemingly get in his way.

“For a guy who stutters, he really held the attention of the entire congregation,” said the Rev. Gerry Norman, pastor at Ebenezer.

The pauses -- termed professionally as “disfluency” or “prolongation” -- are consistent also in quiet, one-on-one interviews. Peterson said he doesn’t know what caused his speech impediment, but he’s also not afraid to share information about his affliction.

“I was born with it,” he said. “There’s no specific knowledge on my end on what caused it.”

The most challenging parts of life, he said, were enduring grade school in Alachua, Fla.

“Just kids mimicking me was real tough,” Peterson said. “But I knew it was only words.”

In fact, donning the pads and gaining celebrity for his talents served as more of an equalizer for Peterson. Instead of catapulting him to Adonis, Peterson said people around him began accepting him as a person, albeit one with great abilities.

“Once I understood it was all me, everything else was irrelevant really,” he said. “Once I was in high school, it was all me then.”

As he told people in the church, “My mom and dad didn’t allow me to use it as an excuse to get in trouble. If you got in trouble, my dad always said, ‘You’ve got to deal with me at home.’ “ Family is something Peterson credits for keeping him on such a great trajectory.

On Sunday, Norman said he created his sermon in light of Peterson’s journey.

“We tried to cater the whole service toward being made in God’s image and being right the way you are. Within that then also is being loved by God just the way we are,” Norman said. “I thought it was great. I appreciated hearing about his family and how strong they were and what an influence they had on him growing up. I was glad to see that the lessons of his youth carried over to his adult life.”

The ex-Bear said he beat stuttering, despite it being a part of his every day life. That’s his reasoning for writing the book.

“I actually started it six years ago,” Peterson said. Around that time, he was the starting Bears’ running back in the 2007 season, compiling his first 100-yard game as a player. “It was just a hobby, something to do. It turned into a book.

“It’s on my speech impediment growing up. How I didn’t allow it to beat me and still was able to reach all my goals to go to college and also to make it to the NFL.”

Now, he said, he’s looking to show others that a speech impediment will never trip him up.

Peterson’s two main jobs in life, for the time being, are as a stay at home dad and as a traveling public speaker. He hopes his next move, though, will be into coaching and hasn’t ruled out the possibilities of working in the NFL. Two summers ago, he interned with Chicago’s running backs coach, working with some of his former teammates.

“What would you do if (ex-Bears’ coach) Lovie Smith gave you a call?” asked one Morrison resident.

“I’m going to go,” Peterson said without hesitation.

“I like the high school level,” he added later. “The kids are so raw and I think I can help with the little things with the game that I didn’t learn until I got into the NFL.”

(On the subject of Smith, Peterson said of the coach’s firing in January: “Was I surprised? Yeah. A 10-win season. You look at Cleveland, Detroit who haven’t seen seven wins, six wins in years.” He believes Smith is looking to be a head coach, a reason he didn’t take an assistant’s position in the NFL off season. He also correctly called the Bears’ win over the Steelers on Sunday.)

On a smaller scale, Peterson was able to demonstrate some of his coaching abilities to the youth of Morrison.

Surrounding the 5-foot, 9 inch back, Peterson captivated an audience of roughly 50 children on the practice field at the Morrison Sports Complex.

Jon Kophamer, an Ebenezer church elder, was the man behind bringing a Chicago Bear to rural Bear country. It happened by chance; the two met randomly during a Chicago Cubs game and exchanged phone numbers when Kophamer heard Peterson does speaking engagements.

As a man of faith, Kophamer said he hopes Peterson will return to Morrison again someday, stating the player left an impression on the town.

“It’s just a good message for a Christian life,” Kophamer said.

For now, the running back will continue to look to inspire.

“That’s why I now share my message, to help others who’re struggling,” Peterson said.

1
Text Only
Top News
  • 10 things to know for today

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

    April 21, 2014

  • Saints swept in home finale CLINTON - For the final time this year, the Ashford University baseball team took to the friendly confines of Ashford University Field. The results weren't so friendly, though. In a doubleheader dominated by pitching, Mount Mercy swept the Saints on

    April 21, 2014

  • Race card season again? After years of mostly hedging any suggestion that racism has anything to do with President Barack Obama's ferocious opposition, there's a new racial etiquette in town. Top Democrats are slipping off the kid gloves. "To a significant extent, the Repub

    April 21, 2014

  • Hot start, strong finish FULTON, Ill. -- A day after a struggle at the plate, Fulton found a dozen runs during the third game of the Fulton Invitational softball tournament against West Carroll to end the day. The game went four innings, and the Steamers used all four of the

    April 21, 2014

  • Medicaid paid $12M for Illinois dead

    The Illinois Medicaid program paid an estimated $12 million for medical services for people listed as deceased in other state records, according to an internal state government memo.

    The memo dated Friday, which The Associated Press obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, says the state auditor compared clients enrolled in the Medicaid database last June with state death records dating back to 1970. Auditors identified overpayments for services to roughly 2,900 people after the date of their deaths.

    April 19, 2014

  • Ohio couple married 70 years die 15 hours apart

    A couple who held hands at breakfast every morning even after 70 years of marriage have died 15 hours apart.

    Helen Felumlee, of Nashport, died at 92 on April 12. Her husband, 91-year-old Kenneth Felumlee, died the next morning.

    April 19, 2014

  • Prince reaches agreement with music label

    Prince now owns the rights to the music he recorded on Warner Bros. Records after years of disputes and battles with the record label.

    Warner Bros. announced Friday it had reached an agreement with the pop icon, who was signed to the label from 1978 to the mid-1990s, during which time he released key projects like "Purple Rain," ''1999," ''Diamonds and Pearls" and "Around the World in a Day."

    Financial terms weren't disclosed.

    April 19, 2014

  • Ill. GOP officials who wanted Brady out replaced

    A crop of Republican officials who wanted to oust former Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady for his statements supporting same-sex marriage have been replaced in their party positions.

    Illinois Republicans across the state held elections for all 18 state central committee member posts this week, replacing six of the seven officials who signed on to a letter last year to hold a vote on removing Brady as chairman. The seventh person to sign the letter, Mark Shaw of the 10th Congressional District, was re-elected to a four-year term.

    April 19, 2014

  • Iowa gets nearly $72M in yearly tobacco payment

    Iowa received $71 million this week from tobacco companies — its annual share of a 1998 landmark legal settlement in which tobacco companies pay states for smoking-related health care costs.

    The Iowa Attorney General's Office says that since 1999, the state has received more than $960 million in tobacco payments.

    April 19, 2014

  • U of I burn center sees jump in ammonia burns

    The University of Iowa Burn Treatment Center is reporting a higher-than-normal number of patients suffering from anhydrous ammonia burns.

    The center says it has treated five people in the last two weeks. The center's medical personnel say they usually only see one or two cases each year. Official say the high number of patients in such a short amount of time is concerning.

    April 19, 2014

AP Video