NEW ORLEANS Adrian Peterson brought his whole family to New Orleans to see him win the NFL's MVP award Saturday night. At least, he brought all he could.
He carried his 18-month-old son, Adrian Jr., who was dressed in a gray three-piece suit.
"My little warrior," Peterson called him.
Peterson walked with his father and mother. He insisted on remembering a brother.
Brian Peterson died when he was 9, hit by a drunken driver in front of Adrian, who was two years younger. After Peterson became the first Viking since Fran Tarkenton in 1975 to win the MVP award, he stood outside the Mahalia Jackson Theater, firmly grasping a trophy and memory.
Brian, Adrian said, remains his inspiration whether he's pushing through rehabilitation during a Houston summer or standing on stage predicting that his first MVP trophy will not be his last.
"It's always on my mind," Peterson said. "It's constant motivation to just keep fighting. There are times it gets tough. That was a tough situation for me at a young age. I feel like me being able to overcome that made me stronger.
"I feel like dealing with, what, an injury? That's nothing to get through. What compares to losing someone you love, in this life that we live? Not going bankrupt. Not anything. Nothing compares to that. If I'm in a tough situation, I'm always looking at things in that light."
The lights were bright Saturday. Hours after former Vikings wide receiver Cris Carter was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Peterson strolled down the red carpet at the NFL Awards Ceremony in what would become a televised duel between him and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
After major knee surgery, Peterson rushed for 2,109 yards, nine off the NFL record, while taking the Vikings to the playoffs. After multiple neck surgeries, Manning led the Broncos to the best record in the AFC at 13-3.
Peterson won the Offensive Player of the Year award. Manning won the Comeback Player of the Year award. The tiebreaker for major awards also would be the most coveted.
Peterson finished with 30 1/2 MVP votes, Manning with 19 1/2. Peterson's ability to dominate defenses massed at the line of scrimmage to stop him made the difference.
Washington's Robert Griffin III beat out fellow quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
"It's truly a blessing to be up there to be able to stand, first and foremost," said Griffin, who underwent knee surgery last month. He added that next season "you'll see a better Robert Griffin."
Wearing a burgundy and gold tie, in honor of his Redskins, Griffin said his goal is to be ready for the season opener.
Bruce Arians became the first interim coach to win NFL Coach of the Year honors. Now the head coach in Arizona, he replaced Chuck Pagano in September when the Indianapolis Colts' coach was diagnosed with leukemia. Arians went 9-3 before Pagano returned, and Indianapolis made the playoffs at 10-6, making Arians an easy winner.
Houston end J.J. Watt swatted the competition for Defensive Player of the Year, getting 49 votes. Denver's Von Miller got the other vote in the most lopsided balloting of all the awards.
Watt led the NFL with 20 1/2 sacks and blocked an astounding 16 passes.
"It sets the bar for me," Watt said. "I want to go out and do even better."
Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, the league leader in tackles with 164, won the top defensive rookie award.