Adrian Peterson's comeback was finally completed Wednesday night, as he won awards for both Best NFL Player and Best Comeback at the 21st Annual ESPY Awards.
Vikings fans got to witness on a weekly basis how Peterson defied the odds by coming back from career-threatening ACL surgery to not only return to the field but have one of the most dominant seasons in NFL history. Despite being brought along slowly the first month of the regular season, Peterson finished just eight yards shy of the all-time single-season record for rushing yards.
Peterson was on hand at the ESPY ceremonies in Los Angeles to accept his two awards. He was nominated for three, but LeBron James won the Athlete of the Year.
What Peterson accomplished in his 2012 campaign has garnered a ton of awards, the ESPYs merely being the latest in an exhaustive list, but the lingering impression of his 2012 season wasn't just being the Most Valuable Player in the NFL, but that he did so coming back from an injury that had many questioning if he was ever going to be the same elite athlete he was before that moment at FedEx Field when he went down with the knee injury that changed his life for the next nine months.
The backlash result of Peterson's knee injury is that it has put every other athlete on notice that if you commit yourself and take the rehab challenge as seriously as humanly possible, new recovery timetables can be achieved. Those who haven't returned in the post-A.P. era – notably the NBA's Derrick Rose – have been compared unfavorably to Peterson. He has become the gold standard of rehab as well.
Of the two ESPYs Peterson won, the award that gets the most attention is the NFL's best player award. But considering that he won that award as well as the best comeback, it could be a combination that is never repeated. A Comeback Player of the Year award is typically given to one of those feel-good stories that is noteworthy because he or she came back – much less putting together the most impressive comeback of all time. Say what you want about Peyton Manning, but in more games than not his uniform left the field just about as clean as it was when he entered it. Peterson was the object of concern of every defensive player he faced – all of whom would have the opportunity to lay a big hit on him.
Winning the ESPY as the NFL's best player is a mammoth achievement. But considering what he went through to put a season together worthy of the honor, the comeback award likely means the most.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.