A little more than two months after Kerryon Johnson turned 10 years old, Adrian Peterson made his NFL debut and rushed for 103 yards for the Minnesota Vikings.
So yes, it was a little strange for Johnson to sit in the same meeting rooms and stand on the same field with a player he has literally watched growing up.
But there they were Wednesday. Both men wearing Honolulu Blue and Silver. Johnson, 23, and Peterson, 35, going through the same drills on the first day of Detroit Lions practice this season.
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“Quite frankly it’s weird,” Johnson said. “Just watching this dude for so long. He’s been doing this ever since he was in college — the guy’s been great.
“He’s going to be a for-sure Hall-of-Famer and I get to sit next to him in meetings. And he’s trying to learn things from me and I’m trying to learn things from him. But I’m like, ‘What do I have to offer?’ You know what I’m saying? Just because he’s been there, done everything that I can say. So it’s very weird.”
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After news broke Sunday that the Lions had signed Peterson to a one-year deal, Johnson even wondered aloud on Twitter whether it would be bad form to ask if he could take a picture with Peterson. Center Frank Ragnow, a Minnesota native, also told reporters he was freaking out when he met Peterson this week. Peterson might almost be able to set up a lucrative autograph-signing session inside the Lions’ locker room.
“But no, we haven’t quite hit him with the autograph session yet,” Johnson said. “I think everybody’s trying to play it cool right now, trying to treat him like he’s normal. I’m sure everywhere he goes he gets bombarded. So we’re all trying to treat him like he’s normal and accept him as who he is. But we’re all appreciative that he’s here.”
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Some young players might view it that way. Johnson has shown promise but injuries have limited him to 18 games his first two years. The Lions drafted Georgia’s D’Andre Swift in the second round this year and now they’ve added an even bigger threat to Johnson’s playing time with Peterson.
But Johnson hasn’t let either addition bother him and fully embraces Peterson.
“I have ultimately no control over it,” he said. “… So if you come to me and ask me, ‘Hey, we’re going to sign Adrian Peterson.’ Like of course, hell yeah, sign him, like yeah, bring him on board.
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“This man has won games by himself, he continues to win games by himself, he can help us win games and that’s all I want to do. I have no control over it, so it’s better to embrace it.”
Johnson remains confident in his ability and production. He’s comfortable in the offense and says he just needs to stay on the field to showcase his ability.
“I know if I play every game this year that the end part of it will show what I think it will show,” he said. “So for me it’s just going out there. I mean I know what I’m doing on offense on this side of the ball the second year in this offense. Just cutting loose and letting it go.”
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There’s just one more thing. Johnson hasn’t gone full fanboy on Peterson yet. But he couldn’t help himself from asking Peterson for the secret to his longevity.
“How is he still running?” Johnson said. “What is he, (14) years in the league or something like that? ACL surgery and here and there whatever bumps and bruises he’s gone through. And I mean, he’s still running, he’s still explosive. We go to walk-through, I mean he’s dang near running in the walk-through.
“So just how and what’s that key? You know, he’s enjoyed every day he’s been in the league. He tries to keep that same motivation. Obviously, besides the whole take-care-of-your-body things that he does, he just tries to have fun with it. And that’s something you can take and use for forever.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Lions content.