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Paying for a great gift

Adrian Peterson could have run for president at the end of the 2012 season and grabbed up the vote of every football fan in Minnesota.

I have a Wheaties cereal box near my desk with a picture of Peterson tossing a football in the air next to “2012 MVP.” The future Hall of Famer is wearing a big smile. He has become a sports icon and his career is far from over.

But last week, Peterson paid a price for his fame and his great athletic gifts that no one should be asked to pay.

Peterson received a call giving him the news of a horrible crime perpetrated against his two-year-old son. The boy lived in Sioux Falls, S.D. with his mother and a man with a history of domestic violence. With the mother out of the house, the man allegedly choked the child until he could no longer breathe.

Peterson traveled to Sioux Falls and found his son in intensive care. The boy died from his injuries. Peterson returned to the Twin Cities to prepare for the Carolina game, bravely announcing he would play football on Sunday.

The shock of the tragedy was not only a heart blow for Peterson and his family, it also obviously left the Vikings reeling. They mustered a meager 10 points against a Carolina team that entered the game with the same 1-3 record the Vikings had compiled. Their performance in front of a partisan crowd at Mall of America Field was awful, but understandable, when placed against the death of a teammate’s son.

Peterson is considered the most gifted running back in football. He was brilliant last season for the Vikings and is the bedrock the team is built around – a true superstar. He came up just short of establishing a new NFL single-season rushing record in 2012 and led the Vikings into the NFC playoffs. He did this after a 2011 season which saw him suffer a knee injury that many believed would cost the Vikes their star back for at least half the 2012 season. Peterson fooled everybody. He played in the first game and just kept on going.

But the pain Peterson is wrestling with now, and will be for the rest of his life, is not physical. He cannot walk it off, he cannot ice it; even surgery will not correct it. He has to find a way to live with it – just as he has with the other tragedies in his life.