I was struck again on Sunday while watching the Vikings football game – really, were you thinking I’d be doing anything else on Sunday?! – that after his 61 yard run for a touchdown Adrian Peterson kneeled and raised his arms in an obvious gesture of prayer and praise. And, indeed, after the game, when he was asked yet once more how he has recovered from surgery just 10 months earlier to reconstruct a torn ACL and MCL to become, once again, the leading running back in the game, he responded, “I give God all the glory.”

That’s a common refrain from AP (sometimes also called AD, as in “All-Day” Peterson), as he regularly gives God glory for his performance, for his success, for his recovery, and more.

I know that various athletes have at times been criticized for attributing their success to God – whether Jeremy Lin or Gabby Douglas or others – and I understand some of those concerns. After all, if we attribute all good things to God, should we also attribute bad things? And do we really think that God favors one athlete or team (or, for that matter, country or army) over another? Risky business, indeed.

Yet AP doesn’t claim God favors him, rather he just gives God thanks for his accomplishments. In previous generations we accepted that. Each of Bach’s compositions, after all, ended with SDG – soli deo Gloria, Latin for “To God alone the glory.” I interpret AP’s prayers after scoring in the same spirit.

Here’ the thing: Adrian Peterson is an old school running back who puts his helmet down and charges ahead whenever he sees someone bigger (or two or three players that are bigger) bearing down on him, looks to score on every single play, and works incredibly, incredibly hard. Is he perfect on or off the field? Of course not, but by and large he gives everything he has to excelling at his craft and at the end of the day give thanks to God for the opportunity to play.

In this respect, it reminds of a scene from the 1981 Academy Award winning film The Chariots of Fire. Olympic runner Eric Liddell – who makes news for refusing to run his heat in the 1924 Olympics because it fell on a Sunday – is being challenged by his sister for why he runs at all. Why, his sister asks, doesn’t he go to the mission fields (his eventual plan and the place of his death) now rather than compete. “I believe God made me for a purpose,” Liddell answers, referring to his work as a missionary, “But he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

I think Adrian would agree.


Hey – if you want to see what I mean, can’t get enough of AP’s running game, or just have eight minutes to kill, you can watch the video below, set, appropriately enough, to The Heavy’s “Short Change Hero.”

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