Adrian Peterson is without question one of the all-time greats on the football field. The running back set records as a rookie for the most rushing yards in a single game (296) and continued to blaze a trail throughout his career, becoming the third-fastest NFL player ever to hit 10,000 rushing yards. In 2021, Peterson became the first player to score a rushing touchdown with six different teams, but hasn’t been on the gridiron since his last game with the Seattle Seahawks that same year.
Keeping himself busy with a gym that he co-owns in Houston, TX, and cutting a rug on the 2023 season of Dancing with the Stars, this sporting icon is still git and ready to go, and hasn’t ruled out an NFL return. M&F sat down with Peterson for an exclusive Q&A.
You made an impressive showing on Dancing With The Stars. How did dancing compare to football from an athletic standpoint?
It’s totally different. I thought having really good agility… it helped me out a little bit, but dancing is a different ballpark. You’ve got to be really technical; you’ve got to be sound with the footwork. It’s working a totally different group of muscles. So, the first couple of weeks, my body had to get used to it. It was really difficult, both physically and mentally.
A lot of people maybe don’t realize how many hours you have to put in every week to get ready for each dance. Did you enjoy testing your stamina?
Yeah, we were dancing four and a half hours per day. That turnaround (between the live show dances) was really quick. The show is on Tuesdays (in Los Angeles), and then we would fly back to Houston and rehearse on Wednesday night, and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And then we’re back to LA. But, after the second week I kinda got into a groove. The body got used to it. It was draining, but then when you see the finished product and you see the work and progress that you’ve made, it made it all worth it.
As an elite football player, do you think you were able to adapt to the training routine because you are used to undertaking hardcore schedules like that?
It did [help], because when I do something, I always put my best foot forward. The hours would fly by, because we were really trying to perfect what we were doing. It felt like some days weren’t long enough! [laughs]. I’m always trying to get better, so if it is another 30 minutes, or another hour, I can go in order to make it more crisp.
In 2011, you tore both your ACL and MCL. Did that cause any issues with dancing?
I was totally OK from that. I’ve been blessed, thank God, to have a healthy body and I don’t really ache when I get up and stuff like that, so those injuries are all behind me.
That injury could have derailed your football career completely but you came back just as good, if not better than ever. You must have worked really hard on the rehabilitation process?
For me, mentally, it was like, ‘OK, I got knocked down, but I’m gonna be back and I’ll be better than I was before.’ I wasn’t just saying it, I meant it. I put the work behind it as well to be able to accomplish what I was able to accomplish. That’s what I would tell anyone; it’s all about your mindset and having a gameplan, and actually putting the work in.
Your parents were both star athletes in college, and your mom, Bonita excelled in track and field just like you did. People often debate how far good genetics will get you in sports, but genetics won’t come in to play if you don’t put the work in?
Hard work outdoes talent, when talent doesn’t work hard. You can have all the talent in the world, but you have to put something behind that. I’ve always stood on that. I knew that I was the most talented, growing up, so I told myself; ‘you know what, no one is going to outwork me.’ I didn’t want to just go through the motions. I wanted to be great, to be the best to ever do it.
You haven’t shut the door on an NFL comeback, if rumors are to be believed?
I’m feeling good. If God’s willing and I get an opportunity, I know playoff time is coming around so you never know if you’ll get that call and that opportunity to get back out there. Right now, I’m just making sure that my body is healthy, loose, and it will be ready to get out there and take that pounding. Given an opportunity, I’d be ready to jump on it.
DWTS certainly proved that you are in great shape right now. Are you hitting the gym?
For running backs, your lower body is how you make your money, right? Your bread and butter. So, I’m making sure that my legs are strong and sturdy, and well-conditioned. I have a little gym at home and me and my guy, Trent Williams, we own a gym out here in Houston called O Athletix.
For anyone reading that would like to improve their own speed, what exercises would you recommend?
I would say box jumps are really good for explosion. I would say front squats, singled legged squats, lunges…if you do that you’ll see a difference and you can just kind of gauge it from there. Bunny hops—up a hill, back pedals, sprints, they will really transform you as far as speed, being strong, and really having that endurance.
Then, on the flipside of being fast for football is how you navigate stopping or making a quick turn.
Yeah, you have to be able to soften the landing as well. That’s something I always work on is being explosive-up, and then when I’m landing, I’m landing soft, so I’m not landing ‘pow.’ How soft can I make this landing? It makes you more agile, quick, and light on your feet.
Many football fans feel that you are a shoe-in for a future NFL Hall of Fame induction. Would that be something that you would welcome as a result of your life’s work?
It would be a blessing. I try not to be really too strung out on different accomplishments and things like that, but being inducted into the Hall of Fame would be pretty special.
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