Thu, Sep 30, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Sooners freshman humbly makes his presence known

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NORMAN, OKLAHOMA

College FootballIf anything, Adrian Peterson the budding superstar is not someone who is blinded by his own light.

Told Tuesday he would draw the first start of his young college career Saturday against Texas Tech, the Oklahoma freshman with the state of Texas diploma said the most important thing he was thinking about was, "keeping the quarterback safe."

Smart answer, considering the quarterback is Jason White, the Heisman Trophy winner in residence.

Peterson starts for the second-ranked Sooners, while senior Kejuan Jones rests a sprained ankle in order to be in prime condition for next week's game against Texas. But as a three-game backup, Peterson already has made the most spectacular out-of-the-gate dbut of any freshman in a storied program with a star-studded history.

And already people with more-than-passing perspective are predicting the biggest of things for the unassuming freshman from Palestine.

"He is going to have a great career," former OU coach Barry Switzer predicted. "He will be an All-American and could win the Heisman Trophy. He's that special."

Peterson, in his first extended, nongame media interview Tuesday, very quietly admitted he's dared to dream that big.

"Yeah, I think about [winning the Heisman]," he sid. "I have goals for myself. Hopefully, I will continue to have success and stay healthy and keep on doing what I'm doing, and maybe something like that will come."

He said he also knows his life will soon be more complicated as the spotlight shines more brightly on his number.

"It's crazy," he said of the attention he has already received as a Sooner. "I just know I have to live with it. I've accepted it. It's difficult [when] peopleare always in your business.

"I'm a quiet, low-key type person. [When] people want to know everything about you, it will get on your nerves. But I feel like have to deal with it. [The attention] really hasn't been a burden to me. I feel like I don't have anything to prove to anybody. That's how I feel. I don't care what people think about me. That's the kind of person I am."

OU coach Bob Stoops earlier in the season acknowledged that the nation's top-rated running back recruit, a player that one writer described as being as being as shifty as Barry Sanders, as powerful as Earl Campbell and with the speed of Gale Sayers, was "as advertised."

"It's only three games, and he's got to keep it going," Stoops aid. "[What he has done is] allowed us to have the threat of breaking the big plays with the run game. There's no question that gives us more confidence, and the ability to run the football, which leads to a stronger emphasis on the run game."

As much as his natural ability, Peterson has impressed the coaching staff and his teammates with his humble attitude and his hard-work ethic.

"The thing about him is I don't think he knows how good he is right now," said cornerback Eric Bassey, who worked out wth him this summer.

"I hope people don't get to him. He's the best athlete I've seen in the last 10 years, alongside Roy Williams and some of those guys like that."

Fullback J.D. Runnels, the OU poster boy for hard-nosed football, has also been impressed.

"He worked his butt off when he came in this summer -- just as hard as anyone here," Runnels said.

"He doesn't complain. He doesn't talk back. He's a really good kid and a special player."

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