Adrian Peterson made his run at history 'shoeless'

Eric Adelson
Yahoo! Sports

One American athlete symbolizes running better than any other.

And he doesn't have a shoe deal.

Adrian Peterson, who valiantly chased Eric Dickerson's all-time rushing record right down to the final play of the regular season, ran all 2,097 yards in 2012 without a shoe contract. ESPN's Darren Rovell reported it on Twitter Sunday night, and a source in the Peterson camp confirmed it to Yahoo! Sports Monday morning.

In fact, the last time Peterson ran with a brand was a year ago, in his final game of 2011 – the one in which he tore his ACL in a pair of Nikes. He wore adidas shoes this season (per Rovell) in what could have been the most impromptu ad campaign since Tiger Woods' golf ball, swoosh facing out, rested on the lip of the cup at the Masters. Unfortunately for adidas, its shoes are not approved footwear in the NFL, so Peterson had to tape over the logo much like adidas endorser Robert Griffin III did all season.

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It's not like A.D. doesn't care about footwear. In a 2009 ESPN story that focused intensely on his Nikes, reporter Rachel Nichols said Peterson was "obsessed" with his cleats. He said he went through 40 sets of game shoes per season and even switched out of some pairs if they didn't feel just right. (He also said he spent more than $200,000 on shoes off the field.)

So how did this happen? A source from the Peterson camp says the reason is fairly simple: The shoe market is weak. And experts back that up. "Only a handful of players are getting meaty deals," says Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. "NFL players don't tend to move the needle like in other sports. There are not as many deals as people think."

So without a ton of money to be had – especially after such a devastating injury last December – Peterson decided to go without a deal.

That, of course, is likely to change now after Peterson's pursuit of Dickerson's record became must-see T.V. His final carry, which left him just eight yards short of tying Dickerson's mark, was one of the best highlights of the NFL season. Teammates hoisted him up in celebration and it seemed the only person unaware of how close he came to catching Dickerson was Peterson. After the game, FOX reporter Pam Oliver asked A.D. for his reaction to coming up just nine yards shy of owning the record, and the newest 2,000-yard rusher looked completely surprised. On Monday, coach Leslie Frazier said the team would look back at all the game tape in an effort to piece together nine more yards.

Peterson will come out way ahead in 2013 when shoe companies will no doubt line up to take part in his encore quest to break Dickerson's record. "I'm coming for you," was the message Peterson sent to Dickerson via SI's Peter King following Sunday's game.

And shoe money will only be the start of the earnings potential for Peterson.

"It'll go above and beyond making money on the apparel side," Swangard says. "There will be other opportunities."

Lots of other opportunities.

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