Peterson has hometown's support

PALESTINE, Texas -- The shrine to Palestine's favorite son remains in the foyer of the high school where he first became a star.

A framed No. 28 jersey sits high on a wall, the first sight greeting visitors as they walk beyond a set of glass doors and into the school. Beneath the frame is a clear display case with three small shelves holding memorabilia from Adrian Peterson's football career since he left Palestine.

They still love Peterson -- AD, which stands for All Day, to most -- in this town of nearly 20,000, where the dogwoods bloom every spring, looking like a sea of white umbrellas and turning Davy Dogwood Park into a tourist attraction.

Palestine, a little more than 100 miles southeast of Dallas, is the kind of place where the mayor's secretary will give you his cell phone number, no questions asked. And when you finish shopping for antiques at the Oxbow Bakery & Antiques, you can buy a slab of pecan pie for a couple bucks.

Here, the locals wave to strangers, who are quickly revealed by whether they pronounce the town's name correctly as pal-uh-steen or incorrectly as pal-uh-stine, and the regulars at the Bird's Egg Cafe are greeted by their first names.

The church pews are filled each Sunday morning, and the children usually use "ma'am" and "sir" when addressing adults.

But there's a wariness of strangers these days, because folks don't want to offend friends or church members by saying the wrong thing about Peterson, who has been in the news for all the wrong reasons these days.

They choose not to risk losing customers or become embroiled in a controversy they didn't create, so many opt not to discuss Peterson's situation. Any conversations with teachers, coaches or students at the high school must be cleared by the superintendent and Mayor Therrell Thomas.

Peterson has been charged with reckless or negligent injury to a child after spanking his 4-year-old son with a switch, a thin tree branch usually less than an inch in diameter, that left cuts on the child's legs.

Peterson has been placed on the commissioner's exempt list, which bans him from all team activities until his legal issues have been resolved.

"Obviously people are talking about it," Palestine Independent School District superintendent Jason Marshall said. "It's a topic, but it doesn't dominate the conversation.

"What I hope it does is allow people to gauge their views on how they discipline their children. It's important for people to talk.

"My wife and I are both in our 40s. We have a 5-year-old, and it's important that the way we discipline our child is up-to-date with today's standards.

"Fifty percent of Palestine remembers how they were raised and disciplined by their parents, and they're not real quick to judge."

Folks around here are quick to quote Scripture when the discussion turns to spanking, whether they're referring to sparing the rod and spoiling the child, or referring a stranger to Proverbs 22:15 in the King James Bible, which reads, "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away."

"I don't know if man wants to supplant the wisdom of God when it comes to what you do with a child," said Preston Brown, a local data analyst. "It says with no uncertainty about it at all that if you have a child, you need to discipline a child.

"When I was 5 years old, my mama raised the cost of playing with fire so high that I no longer wanted to play with fire. I didn't want to do that no more. I'm 47 years old and I still don't play with fire."

Folks around here express sadness when discussing Peterson's situation. More than one person uttered the phrase, "There but for the grace of God go I," when referring to Peterson's career turn.

While Peterson is receiving his $11.75 million salary, he's losing money off the field. Castrol ended its relationship with Peterson last week, and Nike has suspended its endorsement deal with the Vikings running back.

You can find all the Johnny Manziel jerseys you want at Hibbett Sporting Goods, located in a strip mall across the street from the high school.

You can buy a Drew Brees New Orleans Saints jersey and a Jason Witten Cowboys jersey. You can even purchase a No.19 Miles Austin Cowboys jersey, even though he now plays for Cleveland.

But you won't find a Peterson jersey.

A clerk said the store recently received a corporate directive to remove all Peterson jerseys until further notice.

They love Peterson in Palestine because he's always been as proud of his hometown as the hometown has been of him. He's not just a legend in some faraway place that kids see on TV.

They can see him. And touch him. There's an annual Adrian Peterson Day each summer, and he donates football equipment to the youth leagues. Last year, he returned to Palestine for homecoming.

He declined a seat in the press box and accompanying security, so he could stand on the sideline and mingle with his people.

"He's been very good to the city," said Frank Pouncy, who owns a small car lot and rented Peterson's mother a house when she was pregnant with him.

"He's a good kid who made it big and never denied he was from Palestine. His roots are in Palestine. He comes back every summer. I feel sorry that it happened. I regret it for him. I don't wish him no bad luck."

Football coach Jay Brown has found himself in a delicate situation in his first season at Palestine High School. Since he arrived in June, he's used Peterson as an example of what can be achieved through hard work, perseverance and commitment.

"There's been more talk about Adrian the legend than his other situation. We've told the kids they can be like Adrian. If they're willing to work hard, they might be able to be professionals," Brown said. "Folks haven't talked too much about the other stuff, and we haven't specifically discussed it with the team.

"What we have told the players is the things you do today can come back and affect you later, so it's important to always make smart choices in life."

No one knows Peterson's future. Maybe he'll return to the Minnesota Vikings. Perhaps he'll join another team. Remember, Jerry Jones already has said he'd love to have him.

There's a chance he'll never play again.

Whatever happens, he can always go home. Palestine loves him unconditionally.