There is a reason Adrian Peterson received the Minnesota Vikings' Ed Block Courage Award.
Sure, the physical part of Peterson's incredible comeback from reconstructive knee surgery to rushing for the second-most yards in a single season of NFL history is impressive. But Peterson did it all with steely resolve and an upbeat attitude the whole time.
On Monday, he hoped his optimism rubbed off on a high school senior in Rochester, N.Y., when Peterson called 17-year-old cancer victim Blake Cognata and lifted his spirits after a 90-minute campaign reached Peterson via his Twitter account with the hastag #APCallBlake.
"It was just the most amazing thing," Blake's mother, Diane Calcagno, said of the call and experience for her son, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. "He's been glowing all night."
Cognata was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that has attacked nearly every bone in his body, according to his mother. He was diagnosed on Feb. 1 and began receiving chemotherapy. In October, doctors found that the cancer had spread.
He entered Strong Memorial Hospital on Saturday night and got the call from Peterson on Monday night.
"It was on his heart and he just felt he had to do it," Chris Brown, Peterson's assistant, told the Democrat and Chronicle. "If a conversation can bring a little bit of joy, it's the least Adrian can do."
Calcagno said Peterson and Cognata talked for about five minutes and the conversation took place when Cognata had about a 104-degree temperature. Peterson has been out front with his faith this year and made a point to include that as part of his talk with Blake.
"He told Blake not to give up and asked how long he had been sick. Then he told Blake that he had his personal cell number and to call him anytime that he wanted to talk to someone. He's a very spiritual man and talked to Blake about his faith," Colcagno said.
Peterson has regularly been an inspiration for children and others. On Dec. 8, a boy named Anthony visited a Vikings practice as part of a regular Saturday program when the team hosts people in need of an emotional lift, whether it is ailing children, military personnel or others. On that Saturday, Anthony, who is in need of a heart transplant, was visiting Winter Park.
"What I'm going to do, if God's willing, I'll score a couple touchdowns tomorrow and I'll get you a game ball," Peterson told Anthony while on bended knee after that Saturday practice.
God was willing and Peterson was able. The man that fans dubbed "Purple Jesus" scored two touchdowns as part of his 31-carry, 154-yard rushing effort the next day and earned the NFC Offensive Player of the Week and the FedEx Ground Player of the Week. But when Peterson was done bruising the Chicago Bears, he couldn't find Anthony and his family. Like many in attendance, they had left the game early because of the bad weather conditions.
Peterson made sure a football was signed and given to Anthony. No doubt it made Anthony's day, but it was hardly a one-time gesture from the big talent and big-hearted Peterson, as he proved again Monday night.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.