Many Vikings fans remember the date Dec. 30, 2011. It was then that Adrian Peterson went under the knife with the skilled hands of Dr. James Andrews to have his knee surgically repaired following a devastating injury that tore his ACL and MCL.
While many viewed the injury and subsequent surgery as potentially being the end of his football career as he knew it to that point, Peterson saw it as a new beginning – a chance to come back as strong as ever if he put the amount of work and effort into his rehab.
That same day, the life of another athlete changed forever. On Dec. 30, 2011, Benilde-St. Margaret hockey play Jack Jablonski suffered a spinal injury from a hit during a game that left him paralyzed. Many felt that Jablonski's life as he knew it was over. But, like Peterson, he didn't see Dec. 30, 2011 as an ending. He saw it as the beginning of the long recovery process.
On Sunday, NBC's "Hockey Day In America" ran a story on connection that has been built between Peterson and Jablonski – a story that began on the same day that Peterson began fighting for his return and Jablonski suffered the injury that took his life in a different direction.
"I had my surgery, Dec. 30, 2011," Peterson said. "That was the time that Jack had his injury and his life changed forever."
The date doesn't represent the injury to Jablonski anymore. Like Peterson, it represents the day he started working to regain the form he had prior to getting hurt.
"Dec. 30 is definitely one thing that we have in common," Jablonski said. "We know what we're going through. Although they're different injuries, they're the same thing – it's rehab."
Peterson learned of Jablonski's plight and reached out to him and his family. Last summer at training camp, Peterson astounded his doubters by showing up ready to resume his football career. One of the many fans that came to see him was Jablonski and both of them have used one another as motivation for their own rehab.
"We were just kind of talking about rehab and he told me that anything's possible," Jablonski said. "All you have to do is work hard and believe in yourself. Since that day, I've gone by that."
Peterson was single-minded in his determination to return and recover from the injury. But he used Jablonski's story as his own motivation to push harder and keep working toward his goal.
"I was moved a lot by his story," Peterson said. "I was moved that he was fighting and making the best of it. It was just instantly inspiring."
Jablonski was surprised to learn that Peterson was using him as a source of inspiration. Over the last year, Peterson and Jablonski have become each other's biggest fan and the relationship continues to grow.
"I was unbelievable to hear that I inspire him," Jablonski said. "Seeing how he's come back has definitely inspired me a lot. We've met three or four times and our friendship is almost like brothers practically."
While Jablonski has been told his paralysis will be permanent, he isn't taking that as the final answer. He plans to walk again and will work as hard as he needs to in order to make that happen. Inspired by Peterson's recovery, he's taking the same approach – not taking "no" for an answer. He believes in himself and Peterson believes in him as well – convinced he may be able to accomplish the unthinkable.
"It gives me chills just thinking about it," Peterson said. "I feel like he'll be able to walk again. That's his vision."
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.