Adrian Peterson, while contrite over the physical harm he caused his 4-year-old son, has also leaned on his childhood in explaining why he felt justified in whipping the boy to the point where he caused open wounds, saying much of his success in life and football stems from the discipline he experienced growing up.
That upbringing, detailed by friends and family in Texas during interviews with USA Today Sports, reveals the roots of how the Minnesota Vikings' star running back may have learned such discipline.
Taken together, the interviews paint a bleak portrait of a father who saw few, if any, limits to using mild to moderate violence as a tool for punishing his son -- and sometimes even his friends.
"When Adrian showed out or was bad, he got a whupping," Greg Peterson told the newspaper of his nephew.
While neither Peterson's father nor mother would comment for the USA Today story, two uncles and a former stepmother confirmed Nelson Peterson freely wielded corporal punishment on his children using a belt or tree branch, often called a "switch."
When in elementary school, Peterson's parents were advised to have him medicated for attention deficit disorder, but Nelson Peterson refused, another of Peterson's uncles told USA Today.
"It's not something that a little whipping can't take care of," replied his brother, according to Larry Peterson.
And Peterson's father wasn't shy about doling it out.
As one particular story goes, Peterson and childhood friend David Cummings had just finished a middle school football practice when they encountered a furious Nelson Peterson in the parking lot.
"We still talk about it to this day," Cummings told USA Today. "My dad was tough, but his dad was real tough."
Nelson Peterson had fielded a phone call earlier in the day from school officials, who had called to inform him Adrian had been disruptive in class.
"His dad asked what happened, and Adrian told him," Cummings said.
That's when Nelson Peterson -- in front of more than 20 of his son's classmates -- unstrapped his belt and whipped Adrian Peterson with it. It was an account confirmed by the uncles and Phyllis Peterson, a former wife of Nelson's, according to USA Today.
Cummings said the incident was never reported to authorities, nor were any others regarding the Petersons of Palestine, Texas -- at least as they related to whippings. Nelson Peterson later served time in prison for money laundering related to cocaine distribution when his son was in high school.
"It's normal," Cummings asserted to USA Today regarding the whippings, even showing a reporter trees at his family home from which he claimed he and Adrian had picked switches for their fathers to use on them.
Peterson's mother, Bonita Jackson, did speak to the Houston Chronicle, saying Adrian has six kids and "wants to be a good father to them all."
"I don't care what anybody says," Jackson, 50, said in an interview with the Chronicle from her home in the Houston suburb of Spring, where Peterson also has a house. "Most of us disciplined our kids a little more than we meant sometimes. But we were only trying to prepare them for the real world."
Jackson said that while she's still in contact with the mother of the boy Peterson is charged with abusing, neither she nor Peterson can have any contact with the boy.
"When you whip those you love, it's not about abuse, but love," Jackson said. "You want to make them understand that they did wrong."
Peterson was indicted last week in Montgomery County, Texas, on a count of reckless or negligent injury to a child. The charges stem from a whipping incident that reportedly left bruises and wounds to much of his 4-year-old son.
Peterson was also accused in 2013 of injuring another of his 4-year-old sons through a different mother in Texas, though charges were never brought. Those allegations were reportedly filed to the state's Child Protective Services agency, according to Houston CBS affiliate KHOU.
"I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man," Adrian Peterson said as part of a lengthy statement released Monday, three days after the grand jury indictment was handed down.
Scott McCown, a clinical professor at the University of Texas School of Law and the director of the Children's Rights Clinic, told USA Today that corporal punishment, which is legal in Texas, has been held by the courts to be justified under some instances and not justified in others.
"Generally speaking, law enforcement and district attorneys take the position that if there's injury that requires seeking medical attention, it is not reasonable discipline," McCown said.
Dallas Children's Advocacy Center CEO Lynn Davis said in an interview with the newspaper that charges against an alleged abusive parent are often dropped if their record is clean and they commit to counseling.
"My guess is, 'Did that happen to Adrian as a kid?' Quite possibly," Davis said, according to the paper. "But that was 20 years ago. We've advanced hopefully as a society."
McCown said every child should be afforded the same protection under the law.
"Regardless of their parent's upbringing," McCown said.