It's been nearly two decades since Pete Carroll visited Palestine High School in East Texas, trying to convince a young Adrian Peterson to bring his considerable football talents to USC.
The final decision was close, Peterson said, but he ultimately chose Oklahoma where he went on to become an All-American running back, the later a first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings.
"I remember being in class and the coach came down and was like, 'Hey, there's a coach here to see you,'" Peterson recalled. "We had a two-story high school, and the coach's office was the last window, and it overlooked the basketball court. I walk up, I was on the second level, walk around to the athletic office and he was like, 'He's down there.' I look and I see a guy with white hair shooting jumpers and shooting three pointers. It was Pete Carroll when I got down there. It was so real for me being from East Texas and knowing a lot about Pete Carroll at the time. Here he is in little Palestine, Texas, coming to recruit me. I remember just talking to him and him giving me his spiel. Ultimately, I ended up taking an official visit out there to USC. It didn't work out, but my close family they know it was so close. It came down between Oklahoma and USC. Oklahoma just had a little more perks when it came to like being closer to home, my daughter, being close to Dallas. I had a lot of family there. If Oklahoma was on the east coast, yeah I think I would've been a Trojan."
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Carroll didn't get his guy back then, but now, years later, Peterson is joining Carroll as a member of the Seahawks, with the future Hall of Fame back signing to Seattle's practice squad on Wednesday. And while a lot of time has passed, the 36-year-old Peterson is confident that, even in year 15 in the NFL, he still has in him the ability to help Seattle's offense.
"I feel like I can still compete at a high level," Peterson said prior to his first practice with the Seahawks. "Just having opportunities to help teams, to inspire guys, that's one of the most rewarding things when I see guys and they say to me to just keep doing what you're doing, it's so inspiring. I see Mark Ingram in Tennessee and he was like, 'Bro, you need to get your shoulders low man. What are you doing?' I was like, 'I know.' Then he was like, 'But you're inspiring me man.' I got released and picked up by Seattle, he was one of the first people that texted me saying the same thing. Keep inspiring. That and obviously chasing a championship… If I would've let people decide, I would've been retired five or six years ago."
Peterson began this season as a free agent, then signed with the Titans after Derrick Henry went on injured reserve, and while his numbers in three games with Tennessee weren't all that impressive—he rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries—he felt like he was just getting his legs under him before the Titans released him two weeks ago.
"I don't really feel like I showed too much in Tennessee, but before I got released, I was feeling like my legs were back under me," he said. "I felt like going to the Patriots week, that was the week I was going to blossom. Unfortunately, I got released. I feel like there's a lot I can add to the run game and inspire these young guys as well. Make those guys work harder when they see me out there pretty much going full speed during a walkthrough 14 years in, that'll make them kind of pick up their tempo a little more as well. I feel like I'll be able to add to the running back room and help get this running game going."
As a member of the practice squad, Peterson currently isn't on the 53-man roster, but can be elevated for up to two games without being added to the roster, or the Seahawks can sign him to the roster at any time. Asked if he would be ready to play this weekend after only a couple days of practice, Peterson said, "That's definitely a goal for me. It's a goal for me, but that's up to the coaches and the staff and see how I finish off this week. I'm sure they'll make a decision based off that."
And in addition to his still impressive physical abilities, Peterson can also help the Seahawks by being a leader and an example to younger players on how a Hall of Fame-caliber player goes about his business.
"Just how he has gone about practice, how he treats the game, how he respects the game… he's a true pro," said quarterback Russell Wilson. "I was here last night until about 8:30, 9 o'clock, and I come back down and he's still here. There's a reason why he's great."
Take a look at running back Adrian Peterson over the course of his NFL career. Peterson, who signed to Seattle's practice squad on December 1, 2021, has played 15 seasons in the league and is a seven-time Pro-Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro.