MANKATO, Minn. --- Adrian Peterson emerged from the locker room, instantly turning a sleepy summer day in this southern Minnesota college town into a full-blown rock concert.
The 23-year-old Vikings running back has been a star almost since he first stepped onto a football field as a youngster in Palestine, Texas.
But a dynamic rookie season at one of the glamour positions in the most popular league in the country has boosted Peterson into a new orbit in the superstar universe.
Peterson led the NFC in rushing despite missing two games with a knee injury, broke the single-game rushing record with a breathtaking 296-yard performance against San Diego, and was named MVP of the Pro Bowl last season.
From the time he first started breaking long runs in Pop Warner football, through a legendary high school career in football-mad Texas, to his Heisman-contending seasons at Oklahoma, Peterson is one of the poster boys for a new generation of athletes who deal with unprecedented scrutiny at a younger age than ever before.
"He has come on to the scene as quickly as any athlete I've been a part of," said Bill Henkel, who handles the marketing deals for Peterson.
In the off-season, Peterson shot commercials for Nike, Vitamin Water, Muscle Milk and SportsCenter.
Peterson has had to make sure he never loses sight of what got him here in the first place.
"Sometimes it can be too much," he said. "But if you balance everything out and weigh what's most important, everything should work out fine."
There is room for improvement. Peterson managed just 144 yards in his last four games as opposing defenses loaded up against the run.
And coaches say he can be a better pass blocker and a more patient runner.
"He's not going to sneak up on anybody," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "(He's) going to get people's best shot."