MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson spent half an hour after a recent practice listening to stories about a topic he knows all too well: rehabilitation. As his teammates shuffled off to lunch and early afternoon workouts, Peterson chatted with Jack Jablonski, a local high school junior who is bound to a wheelchair after sustaining a devastating injury in a hockey game. Peterson beamed as Jablonski detailed the improvements he has made in his recovery, such as the ability to move his arms and legs just enough to excite his own doctors. It was the kind of news Peterson had been eager to hear ever since he became connected to Jablonski nearly a year ago.
Peterson is the NFL's hottest story right now because of how he has thrived on the field after shredding the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee on Dec. 24, 2011. He's the type of person who motivates somebody like Jablonski, whose spinal cord was damaged by a vicious hit six days after Peterson's injury. By now, every NFL fan knows about the incredible season Peterson has carved out just 12 months after an injury that changes most running backs forever. What they don't know is how much he values interactions with people such as Jablonski. "He told me I inspired him," Peterson said. "I'm inspired by what he's done."
It's not surprising that Peterson can be so humble in a moment that was arranged to benefit a courageous teenager. He has always been the antithesis of what we've come to expect from our superstars. Peterson isn't big on bravado or self-promotion, and he rarely shies away from answering a tough question. His performance this season, which has accounted for 1,898 rushing yards through 15 games -- only has reinforced everything about him that is impressive. Along with having an opportunity to break Eric Dickerson's NFL single-season rushing record, Peterson is hurtling toward the kind of season that will likely be remembered for decades.