When barreling over defenders at Paulson Stadium, legendary Georgia Southern running back Adrian Peterson made it clear he was giving his all.
What fans didn’t see, Peterson said, was hard work on backfields, at libraries and in classrooms that paved his way to breaking NCAA rushing records and earning a life-long goal of playing in the National Football League.
So now, he’s telling them.
On Wednesday, Peterson kicked off a signing tour to promote his new autobiography, “Don’t Dis My Abilities” — about overcoming a speech impediment to accomplish his dreams — with a speaking engagement at the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County.
Peterson, joined by former teammate Andre Weathers, spoke to a crowd of children taking part in the club’s after-school program, to encourage success and share his keys for achieving it.
“All of the stats I have achieved, and everything I have done, could not have been achieved if I had not gone to class and stuck with it,” Peterson said. “That is what I am here to tell you guys.
“You have to stay focused. You have to put in the work,” he said.
Peterson told students that “there has always, at every stage, been someone bigger, stronger, and faster” than him. But he persisted and worked hard, while others “didn’t want to do everything it took” to succeed.
That he made it, he said, is proof anyone can.
“You just have to do more and more. It doesn’t matter where you are, where you’ve come from, what color you are, how tall you are or anything else,” he said. “All that matters is work. I made it out because of hard work.”
A lot of that work occurred in a classroom, he said. When asked by a student how to eventually become a football player, Peterson’s message was simple.
“Nothing can come before hard work and nothing can come before school,” he said. “In order to play in high school and college, you have to have good grades. If you think you can just be a good player, you’re wrong. You are a student first and an athlete second.”
Peterson and Weathers’ trip to the Boys & Girls Club was part of the group’s Coca-Cola Leadership Summit.
Mike Backus, the club’s development director, said Peterson chose to kick off his book tour at the club for a very specific reason.
“(Peterson) chose the club to launch his tour because he feels people who go to the Boys & Girls Club represent him in life,” Backus said. “They are people who hang around other positive folks, learn life’s lessons and do the right thing.”
Peterson will host several autograph signings in Statesboro next week for his new book.
A four-time consensus All-America selection, Walter Payton Award winner, and winner of two national championships with the Eagles in 1999 and 2000, Peterson will be inducted into the Georgia Southern Athletics Hall of Fame at halftime of the Eagles' Sept. 29 game against Samford.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.