For more than two decades, an undersized running back out of Gainesville, Fla., and eventual Georgia Southern University football Hall-of-Famer Adrian Peterson overcame a litany of challenges.
Most of them were on the football field — injuries, a career-long battle to receive more playing time and men twice his size barreling toward him, hunting something to hit.
He confronted the issues like he would a Furman linebacker — head-on — and usually savored the same result: success.
But for all the achievement, the lofty goals conquered, Peterson likely will tell anyone who will listen that his greatest example of persistence occurred with his helmet off.
It was not an NCAA rushing record — of which he holds several — a 1999 Walter Payton Award for being the most outstanding offensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision, or a decade-long professional football career.
Peterson will say that he has faced something much more debilitating than a nearly 400-pound tackle with bad intentions.
And he has.
Peterson, a man who has spent the better part of his adult life in the public eye, in front of television news cameras and reporters’ microphones, has become a college graduate, a successful professional and a role model to many, despite a speech impediment that can make conversation, at times, a battle all its own.
“When people think of me, they usually think of cheering fans and impressive football runs. What they usually don’t think of is a stutter,” said Peterson. “The truth is that I am both an award-winning NFL player and a disabled person, and getting to the NFL was part of a long, hard journey against my own self-doubt.”
For years, Peterson struggled in classrooms and in interviews to get points across without fault. He struggled to be “normal.”
Now, as he reflects on his career and basks in the success, Peterson can be proud of what he has achieved. And he wants to tell others that they can do the same.
So, he has penned an autobiography to do just that.
Peterson’s book, “Don’t Dis My Abilities,” was released Sept. 28 through Imprint Publishing and has since made its way through Statesboro, with the Eagle great hosting several autograph-signing sessions in town.
The autobiography chronicles Peterson’s successes while documenting his troubles and, he hopes, encourages readers with similar issues to push onward.
“I was able to charge through my disability and into success,” Peterson said. “This book is the story of how I was able to overcome snickering kids in school, headache-inducing hours in speech therapy, and choppy conversations with baffled reporters and coaches to capture one of those coveted spots in professional football.”
It is a story that is not just his, he said.
“It is the story of anyone who has ever suffered from a disability, anyone who has ever felt they were not capable enough or good enough or talented enough to reach for the stars. It is the story of anyone who allows their shortcomings to overshadow their talents and abilities.”
To hammer home the book’s message, Peterson is touring and conducting motivational lectures to young people.
Recently, he spoke to children at the Bulloch County Boys and Girls Club, where he stressed ideals of working hard and being a good student.
“Nothing can come before hard work, and nothing can come before school,” he told them.
As a capper to Peterson’s story, the running back Eagles fans call “AP” was inducted into the Georgia Southern Athletics Hall of Fame at halftime of the Eagles game against Samford this year — a day after the release of his book.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.