Adrian Peterson Witnessing 9-Year-Old Brother’s Horrific Death Is Just 1 of Multiple Tragedies He Overcame

Adrian Peterson is a guaranteed Pro Football Hall of Famer. In his 13-year NFL career, he’s achieved numerous records in becoming one of the top five running backs for career rushing yards in NFL history. Unfortunately for Adrian Peterson, he’s also had to endure numerous tragedies throughout his life. Here’s a look at all the tragedies the former Washington running back has had to endure and how they dramatically changed his life and career. 

Adrian Peterson watched brother die at young age

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Adrian Peterson was like any seven-year-old boy with an older brother. He loved hanging out with his nine-year-old brother and best friend, Brian, in the east Texas town of Palestine. 

One day, however, that fun and innocence of childhood was ripped away when Peterson and his brother were playing together outside. Brian was riding his bicycle when a drunk driver came barreling through the neighborhood. Peterson stood just a few feet away and watched helplessly as the driver ran over and killed his brother.

Shortly after that horrifying tragedy, Peterson expressed an interest in sports. He liked football, in particular. Not long after he started playing, Peterson’s talent was evident. His youth coach said he knew early on that one day the youngster would play in the NFL.  

Adrian Peterson’s half-brother dies before NFL combine

Running back Adrian Peterson of the Washington Redskins.
Running back Adrian Peterson of the Washington Redskins. | Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

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Growing up, Adrian Peterson cheered for the Texas Longhorns. But when it came time to decide on a college to pursue his college football career, he opted for the rival school and the University of Oklahoma because he wanted a chance to play for a national championship.

At Oklahoma, Peterson got that opportunity his freshman season. After rushing for an NCAA freshman rushing record of 1,925 yards, Peterson and the Sooners played in the BCS National Championship game and lost to the USC Trojans.

After two more seasons in Norman, Peterson opted to skip his remaining year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft. Sadly, the night before Peterson’s workout at the Indianapolis scouting combine, his half brother, Chris Paris, 19, was shot and killed in Houston. Peterson stayed up much of the night praying. Then, the next day, he used his half brother’s death as motivation and impressed the 32 teams in attendance by clocking some of the fastest 40 times of the entire combine.

“Unfortunately, when tragedy strikes, the world doesn’t stop,” Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage said at the time. “Adrian was able to go out and perform despite his loss.” 

Peterson tragically loses young son 

In October 2013, Adrian Peterson was on top of the NFL world. After earning his fifth Pro Bowl and third All-Pro selection and leading the league in rushing with 2,097 yards in 2012, Peterson was looking forward to his seventh season with the Minnesota Vikings.

Just months before the start of the season, he had learned he was the father of a two-year-old. He was planning to meet his young son in just a few weeks. It never happened. 

Peterson’s young son was beaten to death by the boyfriend of the mother of his child. Sadly, the first time Peterson met his son was in the hospital where he watched him lying in a bed on life support. It was an unspeakable heartache, but like he had before, Peterson leaned on his faith.

“God wants good to come from it,” Peterson texted Fox sideline reporter Laura Okmin before playing a game just day’s after his son’s death. “We mourn and grieve, but heaven had the baddest welcoming party for my son. That knowledge gives me peace. I’m still hurt and feel the pain of life. But I’m able to function because of the peace and joy of knowing my loved ones are in a much better place.”

Peterson’s ability to overcome so many tragedies in his life is remarkable. It also puts life in perspective. While there’s no denying Adrian Peterson is a competitor and wants to win football games, he understands the bigger picture. He knows there’s so much more to life and it can’t be taken for granted, because he’s seen firsthand how it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye.