PALESTINE, Texas — The following is a running Weblog of OUInsider.com staff writer Thayer Evans' experiences in Palestine, Texas, leading up to Adrian Peterson's 10 a.m. press conference on Wednesday.
5:58 a.m.—Checked out of Room 109 at the Ramada Inn, 1101 E. Palestine Ave., catching roughly four hours of sleep. A decent room by a scribe's standards, excluding the overwhelming smell of East Texas mildew in the bathroom. On my way out, I ask the front desk manager, Bobby, about Peterson. His response, "Who is that?"
6:05 a.m.—Yes folks, there is a Wal-Mart Supercenter and a McDonald's in Palestine. Other then that, Palestine isn't much more than Perry, Oklahoma on steroids.
6:15 a.m.—In today's 16-page Palestine Herald Press, Palestine's newspaper, there are no full-page advertisements advising Peterson to "Stay in Texas." But there is mention of Peterson in a six-paragraph story on page 8 with a Staff Reports byline. The article says he is expected to sign with Oklahoma at 10 a.m. and that Palestine linebacker Jamadre Enge will be signing a letter of intent with Henderson State University in Arkansas at 10 a.m. as well. The article also says the Palestine Booster Club will host a reception for Peterson and Enge after basketball practice today at 6 p.m. in the Palestine coaches' office.
6:23 a.m.—As I pull into Palestine High School, I realize there are no other cars in the parking lot. Much to my surprise, Stacey Dean is not, I repeat, not tailgating in the parking lot.
6:35 a.m.—An older man who refuses to give his name arrives in the Palestine High School parking lot. He knows nothing about Peterson and is at the school for a four-man prayer group gathering. He claims to have only witnessed two football games his entire life, one of which was when he was in Palestine High School's band. He says he choked on the mouthpiece of his tuba on that fateful fall night and quit the band following the game.
6:45 a.m.—Carl Smith, Palestine High School's head custodian arrives to open the school's doors and turn on the lights. I ask him if Peterson is the best football player to ever room the school's hallways. A lifelong Palestine resident, he tells me, "He's good, but he's not the best. We've had some ol' boys who were pretty good. I give him credit, he's pretty dang good, but he's not the best though."
6:54 a.m.—"Welcome to Wildcat Country" reads a 2-foot-by-3-foot ceramic tile on the floor bearing a generic Wildcat mascot upon entering Palestine High School.
7:07 a.m.—Guadalupe Orozco teaches Spanish II at Palestine High School, but has never had Peterson in class. Still, he has much to say about the school's star running back, "Everyone knows him and like him. He's very humble and just has a good personality. He's an all-around good guy."
7:33 a.m.—Rafael Anleu has taught Spanish III and IV at Palestine High School for 14 years, but on this particular morning is also doubling as a hall monitor. He says graffiti is a problem at the school, which is why students are not allowed in the school's hallways until 8:15 a.m. Despite that, he says, "This is an excellent school. I love it here. The kids are great."
7:40 a.m.—Francis Liles, who teaches Spanish and Web Mastery at Palestine High School, is quite fond of Peterson. As she stands in front of the school monitoring which students go in and out of it, she says her fondest memories of Peterson are on the football field, where is "awesome." She gushes, "He's such a nice guy."
7:43 a.m.—Alex Parker, a blue jeans-clad, canary yellow t-shirted sophomore with wet hair at Palestine High School, says he knows Peterson. His thoughts on Peterson choosing Oklahoma, "I wouldn't have gone there," says Parker, as he stood outside the school. "I would have picked Florida myself. Oklahoma is a good
school though. He'll probably do O.K. there."
7:48 a.m.—Fourteen Palestine High School alumni are honored on the school's "Wall of Honor." Five of which are either doctors or military personnel. James E. Saxton, Class of 1958, who played at Texas and was second runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1961, is the only athlete honored.
7:55 a.m.—Yesenia Rosas, a sophomore at Palestine High School, had health class with Peterson first semester. She says, "People just think of him as the God of football. It's all about football with him. But he's actually a friendly person."
8:01 a.m.—Shawn Larty, a senior at Palestine High School, who played receiver this season, says his favorite all-time Peterson highlight came against Whitehouse in October, when a running back who was being tackled, pitched the ball back to Peterson, who ran for a 60-yard gain. Says Larty, "I was like wow. I thought it was the coolest high thing I had ever seen."
8:12 a.m.—The man, the myth, the legend known as Peterson arrives at school via his own car. He is wearing his maroon Palestine High School letterjacket with a red Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt and blue jeans. As he eats a glazed donut, he tells me, "I feel at peace about going to Oklahoma. I'm ready to get this over with."
8:15 a.m.—As I walk with Peterson to his first class—physics—a middle-aged blonde-haired teacher attempts to stop me in the hall to get me to remove my weathered Boston Red Sox cap, much to the delight and laughter of Peterson. After the situation is explained, she tells me, "You look like a student. That's a compliment for someone your age." My age? Hell, I'm only 24 years old.
8:38 a.m.—While pacing back forth in the athletic offices overlooking Palestine High School's gymnasium, Enge says his favorite Peterson highlight was last year vs. Huntsville. "He got the ball and the linebacker read his keys perfectly, but he just got ran over. AD ran 80 yards for a TD. That play was a superstar play. You don't see many people do that."
8:46 a.m.—When Peterson arrives in Norman this summer, he won't be the only Palestine High School athlete playing sports at Oklahoma. Ryan Mottern, Class of 2003, is a freshman pitcher.
8:56 a.m.—Besides football, Peterson is also a standout basketball player. Last night, he scored 19 points during Palestine's 62-47 victory over Jacksonville. DeAndre Daughtery, a senior shooting guard, says of Peterson, "He's a strong rebounder and hustler. He knows how to score too. He could definitely play college basketball."
9:06 a.m.—As he looks over the football field of Palestine High School, football coach Jeff Harrell calls Peterson the "best football player I've ever coached." Says Harrell, "He's got the size and speed. His running style is like Eric Dickerson style, but the difference is that he's got world-class speed. He's a potential 10.1 guy in the 100-meters."
9:14 a.m.—Palestine High School trainer Marc Ballew gushes about the durability of Peterson. He says, "He's extremely tough. He showed me to be more durable (this season). He really fights through injuries. He loves to compete. That's what gets him through it all."
9:21 a.m.—Ryan Mottern's father, John, has attended every one of Peterson's football games at Palestine High School and is on hand to see the star running back's press conference. "I've seen him dunk one-handed from the foul line. I've seen him knock defensive backs down the field 12 yards. He's just absolutely amazing."
9:33 a.m.—Palestine High School athletic secretary Candace Andrews says she received a handful of calls about the full-page ad on page 10 in Monday's Palestine Herald Press newspaper. The ad, which says, "ADRIAN PETERSON The nation's greatest high school football players are from the State of Texas. Play your college football in Texas. On a long-term basis your contacts in Texas with Texans will benefit you more than anywhere in the United States. Make us proud, Adrian STAY HERE." The ad also said "This is a paid advertisement by Russell Norton." It also featured a Texas state flag and an outline of the Lone Star state. Andrews says the ad is a mystery to Palestine High School athletic department. She says, "We don't know who did it. It's garbage."
9:53 a.m.—Scott Tyler, sports editor of the Palestine Herald Press newspaper, is relieved that Peterson's decision will be finalized today. Says Tyler, "It's been crazy for us, so I can't even imagine what's he's gone through. For us, we get calls daily wanting photographs, wanting his stats this year and information about him. For him, it's twenty times worse. It's been fun, but I think for us both, we're glad to get it (Peterson's decision) done with."
Tyler says the man, Russell Norton, behind the "Stay in Texas" ad in Monday's paper is a resident of Buffalo, Texas. He says the ad cost $1,200. "Supposedly, he took up a collection for it," says Tyler.
10:09 a.m.—Peterson's stepfather, Frankie Jackson, wearing an OU Nike swoosh ballcap, red long-sleeved shirt, khaki pants and gray snakeskin boots, is glad his stepson's recruitment is over. Says Jackson, "He could have gone any school he wanted and that would have been his choice, but he wants to Oklahoma, which we support. Never one time did we ever tell him to go anywhere. We're glad he chose OU and we're going to be there with him."
10:25 a.m.—Peterson holds a press conference before some 100 people in the gymnasium of Palestine High School confirming his letter of intent with Oklahoma. Says Peterson, "Oklahoma is the best place for me."
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