He struggled with a speech disorder for decades, beginning therapy in kindergarten and continuing to practice speaking without stuttering until he was 23. He displayed his physical abilities playing football in high school and college. And eventually, he was inducted into Georgia Southern University’s Hall of Fame.
After college, Peterson continued to strive for greatness, playing for eight years as a running back in the NFL for the Chicago Bears and playing in Super Bowl XLI.
“Hard work pays off. I prove it true,” Peterson said. “My entire life I set goals and worked toward accomplishing them. If you want to achieve your dreams, start now. Work hard. No breaks.”
Even after retirement, the 34-year-old Chicago resident will not rest easy. He is working as a motivational speaker and is bringing his message of perseverance and resilience to youth groups and schools in the Augusta area.
Peterson visited Augusta Christian Schools on Wednesday, offering advice to students while speaking about his life experiences.
Peterson, who has given motivational speeches at 80 other schools over the past few years, said he hopes his life can inspire students struggling with life problems or self-doubt.
“No matter what the situation, I want to be able to help inspire them,” Peterson said. “Maybe it’s home life. Maybe it’s self-esteem. Whatever it is, I want the kids to know they can overcome it with hard work and dedication.”
Peterson spoke to Augusta Christian students for more than an hour, discussing his time in the NFL, his childhood in a small town in Florida and his family life.
After his presentation, Peterson answered questions from the audience, detailing everything from how his faith affected his football career to his favorite foods.
“He’s been in the real world. He’s been on the biggest stages you can be on,” 17-year-old student Alex Milton said. “It’s really awesome to be able to talk to him about his experiences. It’s really awesome to me to hear about how he can keep his cool under pressure and not get caught up in the ways of the world.”
Spencer LaMunion, 18, said he identified with Peterson’s upbringing.
“This talk has been a really cool experience on multiple levels. I like how he talked about growing up in a small town and moving to large cities up North. It’s really inspiring to hear, especially having lived here in Augusta. I can understand that,” LaMunion said. “He really does prove that hard work will pay off for us.”
That’s just the message administrators at the school wanted their students to hear.
“It was our desire for him to speak to us so we could hear his testimony. We wanted to show how God used his disability for good,” Principal Lauren Banks said. “We wanted to offer him a motivational platform to encourage everyone here to keep focused on their dreams. They need to see people who have stayed strong and worked hard to accomplish their dreams.”