Norman, Okla.—Nelson Peterson had dreamed of Saturday for what seemed like forever.
Released nine days ago from an Oklahoma City halfway house after serving eight years in federal prison for laundering drug money, he was ready to make up for all the times he couldn't attend the football games of his son, Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson.
The script for No. 23 Oklahoma's 34-9 victory over Iowa State couldn't have been better written by a Hollywood director for the first 182 of Adrian's 183 rushing yards Saturday.
That was until he crashed into the end zone from the 1-yard line on a 53-yard touchdown run and landed awkwardly on his left shoulder, breaking his collarbone with 6:40 left.
In seconds, a promising day for the Petersons turned to heartache, while Sooner fans are left wondering if they have seen the last of their star tailback, who in three short years has evolved from the nation's top high school player to arguably the greatest running back in OU history.
"It's sad for AD for sure," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.
Adrian's freak injury Saturday spoiled an otherwise ideal day for Nelson. He spent Friday night in Norman and was up at 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
He worked out doing pushups and sit-ups and by 8 a.m. was eating an omelet with seven of his children at IHOP.
Several of his children wore black t-shirts bearing last year's ESPN The Magazine cover of Adrian, while another wore a shirt that said "All Damn Day," which showed him scoring a touchdown against Texas.
As kick-off approached Saturday, relatives and friends in Texas trickled in from Austin, Freeport and Palestine. Everywhere that Nelson went prior to the game, someone wanted a piece of him and whether it was for a photograph or an autograph, he gladly obliged with the same toothy smile.
By the time Nelson entered Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium around 11 a.m. for the first time ever, he was accompanied by 30 family members and friends. The scene was both emotional and gratifying for Nelson.
"This is a wonderful feeling," he said. "To finally be here is really something. I'm just really appreciative."
For three hours Saturday, Nelson tasted what he had missed while in prison: unfettered interaction with his son. As soon as he made it to his seat, Adrian waved to him from the field during pre-game warm-ups, leaving Nelson beaming with pride.
With that simple gesture, father and son were finally free for the first time in eight years. Despite Adrian's broken collarbone, the moment won't be forgotten anytime soon and helps sooth the injury.
"It'll be OK," Nelson said.
Indeed it will be, because his son will have plenty more opportunities in the future. They'll just likely be on Sundays and the occasional Monday instead of Saturdays.
The following is a candid look at Nelson Peterson's visit to Norman on Saturday:
8:21 a.m.-Nelson and his seven children are having breakfast at IHOP in Norman. Eating an omelet, he greets a visitor with a hearty handshake and introduces him to seven of his children. He smiles and resumes eating, saying, "A man's got to eat, you know."
8:31 a.m.-Dressed in a white Nike turtleneck with an OU logo, red swoosh pants and Nike shoes, Nelson spent the night in Norman Friday night. He said he woke up at 5:30 a.m. today and completed a fierce regiment of sit-ups and pushups prior to breakfast. "I didn't have any weights," Nelson said.
8:37 a.m.-Nelson and his family pose outside IHOP for several photos. He smiles proudly with his chiseled arms wrapped around his children.
9:11 a.m.-Nelson's three-vehicle convoy parks near Asp and Lindsay. The group begins to walk to the stadium with Nelson leading the way. "This is very exciting," he said.
9:24 a.m.-Nelson tosses the football with his 10-year-old nephew, Devin, in a parking lot south of the stadium. Another 10 family members and friends join Nelson's ever-expanding crew, most of which are wearing red t-shirts that say, "A PETERSON THANG!" in the front and "ADRIAN PETERSON 28" on the back.
9:25 a.m.-Nelson meets his sister, Ola Hall, and a longtime friend, who he hasn't seen since being incarcerated. "Eight years was too long," Nelson said.
9:38 a.m.-Nelson buys a white long sleeve shirt for $15.91 for a friend at Sooner Textbooks.
9:45 a.m.-Tammy Wilcoxen of Kansas, Okla. asks Nelson's group to pose for a photograph outside Sooner Textbooks. She eagerly snaps two photos. "This is a big day for them," Wilcoxen said. "They're an awesome family."
10:03 a.m.-As Nelson's group walks towards the Bud Wilkinson Dorm to pick up tickets, his brother, Larry Peterson, can hardly contain his joy. "This is a great moment," said Larry Peterson, an associate minister in Palestine. "We're all here for Nelson and Adrian."
10:05 a.m.-While Nelson walks, Austin Morris of Clinton, N.M. asks him to autograph his white OU football, which he gladly does. Why does the youngster want Nelson's signature? "Adrian Peterson is my favorite player and this is his dad's first game," Morris said. "It's special."
10:10 a.m.-A woman sees Nelson and shouts to him, "We need a big game out of your son." He laughs. "He's got a big one coming," Nelson said.
10:13 a.m.-Nelson Peterson and his crew enter Wilkinson to pick up their tickets. While the tickets are retrieved, a few of his children play billiards and one knocks the cue ball off the table, causing loud laughter.
10:34 a.m.-Paul Thompson Sr., Paul Thompson's grandfather, introduces himself to Nelson and hugs him. "Our boys are going to get it done today," the elder Thompson said.
11 a.m.-Shawn Kurtz of Broken Arrow, Okla. takes a photo of Nelson with his camera phone outside the stadium. "I'm glad to see him out," Kurtz said. "That means everything to a son."
11:03 a.m.-"Everybody got tickets?" Nelson asks his group of 30 people outside Wilkinson. The consensus is yes and the group departs for Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
11:05 a.m.-An ESPN cameraman begins taping Nelson as he walks to the stadium. The man asks Peterson where his seat is located. He's sitting in Sec. 30, Row 19, Seat 25, a spot that splits the 50-yardline on the visitor's side.
11:10 am.-Walking into the stadium's concourse, Nelson says: "This is a wonderful feeling. To finally be here is really something. I'm just really appreciative."
11:15 a.m.-Sideline reporter Jim Knox of Fox Sports Net talks to Nelson for several minutes and arranges to interview him for television prior to the game.
11:22 a.m.-Adrian sees his family and friends and waves to them from the 25-yardline.
11:28 a.m.-Nelson raises his finger during the singing of "Alma Mater," a first for him.
11:33 a.m.-Nelson enthusiastically claps to "Boomer Sooner" as The Pride of Oklahoma Band marches off the field.
11:40 a.m.-Knox returns to interview a relaxed Nelson. Says Nelson about his pre-game television appearance, "It went well."
11:48 a.m.-Iowa State wide receiver Austin Flynn drops a pass from quarterback Bret Meyer on third-and-3 from the Cyclone 27. Nelson shakes his head relieved. "He was wide open."
11:51 a.m.-Adrian reels off a 40-yard run on his first carry. As he runs, Nelson strains his neck to see his son race down the right sideline. Despite the big play, Nelson remains expressionless.
11:53 a.m.-When Adrian charges into the end zone on a 6-yard run, Nelson pumps his right arm in the air repeatedly. The touchdown elicits the first smile of the game for Nelson.
12:03 p.m.-Adrian has 49 rushing yards after one possession, but you'd never know it by looking at Nelson. He sits quietly and is focused on all aspects of the game.
12:04 p.m.-Adrian is quickly swarmed under by Iowa State defensive tackle Brent Curvey for a one-yard loss. The tackle draws a "Wow" from Nelson.
12:06 p.m.-Paul Thompson's 9-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Kelly gives Nelson another reason to smile. "That's an East Texas boy," said Nelson of Kelly, a Longview, Texas native.
12:20 p.m.-As Adrian is about to receive a handoff from Thompson on the first play of the second quarter, Nelson yells, "Let's go boy." Adrian picks up five tough yards on the play before being taken down by Cyclones' Tyrone McKenzie and Jon Banks.
12:37 p.m.-Thompson's 9-yard pass to Manuel Johnson for a first down on third-and-8 impresses Nelson. "Good pass Paul," he yells.
12:51 p.m.-Adrian's receptions of 16 yards and 29 yards on two screen passes before halftime briefly causes Nelson to step on to the bleacher row in front of him for a better view during both plays. "That's it," he yells after the second catch.
1:01 p.m.-Nelson on Adrian's first-half performance, "He's played well. He's playing within himself. He's stayed focus."
1:08 p.m.-Countless well-wishers greet Nelson at halftime, including one man who tells him, "Glad you're here."
1:33 p.m.-Knox returns for another interview with Nelson early in the third quarter.
1:50 p.m.-Several of Nelson's children are posing for photos with OU mascots Boomer and Sooner. Says Nelson about kids, "They're having fun."
2:01 p.m.-The chant of "Boomer Sooner" rings out across the stadium. Nelson shouts proudly "Sooner" several times along with others in his group.
2:05 p.m.-Adrian rushes for 7 yards, 15 yards, and 12 yards on consecutive carries early in the fourth quarter, his best runs in the second half. Nelson casually nods his head in affirmation as if the best has yet to come.
2:15 p.m.-Adrian's roommate, Marcus Walker, successfully breaks up Meyer's pass to Jon Davis in Iowa State territory, drawing praise from Nelson. "Marcus is playing today," he said.
2:19 p.m.-Nelson wipes the sweat from his face with 10:04 left in the game. He doesn't seem to mind the blazing sun or temperatures in the 70s.
2:29 p.m.-With Adrian sprinting into the end zone to cap his dizzying 53-yard touchdown run, Nelson raises his fist in celebration and doesn't realize then that his son has injured his collarbone. The parents of fellow OU players point to Nelson, giving him thumbs up and No. 1 gestures. "Once you get close to that sideline, you cut back across the field," Nelson said of his son's touchdown run. "I taught him that when he was a little boy."
2:36 p.m.-Knox returns to talk to Nelson to arrange a post-game interview. Excitement in his group grows as everyone wants to proudly display their "A PETERSON THANG!" t-shirts one last time.
2:44 p.m.-As the game ends, Nelson stands proudly with his left hand raised.
2:48 p.m.-Knox returns to interview Nelson with his family gathered around him. "It's very emotional for me and Adrian" said Nelson of today's game. About his son's performance, he said, "He stayed patient and it paid off."
2:55 p.m.-After the game, Nelson is flooded by congratulatory telephone calls. He tries to juggle talking on two cell phones at once briefly.
2:58 p.m.-Several OU fans ask Nelson to pose for photos. He obliges for the Sooner paparazzi. After one photo, a man tells his wife, "That was awesome."
3:06 p.m.-As he arrives at the Barry Switzer Center, Nelson is informed he is needed in the locker room. He is escorted there by a security guard and informed of Adrian's injury. He then views his son's x-rays.
3:54 p.m.-Nelson and other family members depart the stadium with a seemingly upbeat Adrian. "It'll be OK," Nelson said.
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