NORMAN — Adrian Peterson's NFL stock keeps rising. Yes, that's right. Rising. The broken collarbone? A blessing to the pros that covet one of the world's 10 best running backs.
At least that was one theory in the Texas Stadium press box Sunday, and sound it is. Some sad-sack NFL franchise, the Texans or the Raiders or the Packers, is tickled today that Peterson has played his last game at Owen Field. That's half a season's worth of hits Peterson will miss out on. A tailback's body can sustain only so many hits; Peterson's future employer prefers as many as possible occur not in Oklahoma crimson. So don't hold out hope that an unfulfilled college career — no Heisman Trophy, no national title, maybe not even the OU career rushing record — will give Peterson pause to return for his senior season. He will be picked first, maybe second, in the NFL draft and no way does he drop below third. Running backs like this don't often come along. Truth is, the broken collarbone accelerates Peterson toward the NFL for a variety of reasons. The disappointing 2006 will not make him hunger for another college rodeo. It will make him realize what a drag it is to not play and not get paid. Peterson's big decision is not whether to turn pro. It's whether to turn pro now, as in this week. And yes, he will be given that opportunity. The underworld of sport, where shady agents and marketers dwell, has been on Peterson's trail for two years, and no doubt has intensified the search now that Peterson has little left to lose in his college career. "Maybe they'll be more aggressive," OU coach Bob Stoops said Monday night. "I believe they have been anyway." Peterson will be tempted. Sign with an agent now, he will be told, and start reaping the riches that come with being this talented. Drop out of school now; why bust your butt in a sociology class when a $50 million contract awaits next spring? Peterson will think about it.