5 NFL Players Who Triumphed Over Their Rough Upbringings To Become Successful

by Julian Sonny

What many people don't realize when they see an NFL player celebrating after getting a first down or dancing after a touchdown is how much he had to overcome just to get there.

Sure, showboating should have its limits, but can you really get mad at a guy for going out there and doing something he loves and that you could never do?

With the majority of players coming from impoverished areas where not much hope is to be had, a special few have risen and used their God-given talents to excel in football.

Overcoming some of the biggest obstacles you could imagine, these men used the game to give their families hope and to ensure themselves a better future. At the end of the day, is there really more to ask for?

While the list of guys who have overcome adversity to make a name for themselves in the league goes on for days, these are just a few who did it. These are the five NFL players who overcame rough upbringings and to become successful.

Tyrann Mathieu

Tyrann Mathieu may be well-known for his heavy weed usage back in college, which got him into all sorts of trouble at LSU (and eventually dismissed from the team), but he's a special kind of playmaker for Bruce Arians on the Arizona Cardinals. His road to the NFL wasn't an easy one, having to work his way up in the draft after being removed from the game an entire year while he was in rehab (for weed?), but Mathieu has since proven that he is worthy of a top 10 pick, despite being selected in the third round.

With neither of his biological parents in his life, Tyrann grew up knowing that his father was a jailbird who murdered several people both in and out of prison. His mother abandoned him and, luckily, his aunt and uncle decided to adopt him. Growing up in their household, Tyrann harvested his skills as an athlete and overcame some tough adversity. At 21 years old, Mathieu still has a whole lot of football left to play, which is good because every day he has something to prove.

Knowshon Moreno

Continuing a long line of football excellence out of the state of New Jersey, Knowshon Moreno overcame a tough childhood to become one of the most versatile backs in the NFL. As a child, he bounced around from homeless shelter to homeless shelter with his father in the New York City area, which is never a stable growing environment for anyone, let alone a 10-year-old kid.

But when Knowshon turned 11, that all changed. Thanks to some loving family in Jersey, Moreno finally had the chance to focus and be great at something he never knew he could do. Every time he takes the field, Knowshon remembers all that he's been through and all that he's overcome just to stand there in that uniform. There is a story behind those tears.

Dez Bryant

Former NFL scout Bryan Broaddus once described Dez Bryant's upbringing as “the worst [he] had ever seen of a background." Still, that hasn't stopped Dez from extending his generous hand to everyone around him so far during his time in Dallas. It wasn't too long ago that Bryant had nothing. His mother was 14 when she had him and later served an 18-month prison sentence after being convicted for selling crack cocaine in 1997.

With no presence of his father in his life, Dez bounced from home to home until he was accepted at Oklahoma State University, where he perfected his craft and became one of the most lethal receivers in the game.

Then, there was the incident where Bryant allegedly hit his mother in the face and ripped off her bra. We still don't have much detail about the incident aside from his mother calling the police, but that ratchet incident only further reveals how bad things were for Dez in the past. I guess that's why he has so much passion for the game.

Michael Oher

Michael Oher probably has the most documented upbringing of any NFL player, seeing as "The Blind Side" portrays the true account of his childhood. Before being taken in by the Tuohy family, Oher was living on the streets with no guidance, no family and no hope. Growing up in the very rural and dangerous north Memphis, Tennessee, he escaped all types of violence and crime to become a man and play football.

Accepting his new family as his own, Michael never looked back and made it to the NFL after graduating from Ole Miss in 2008. In 2013, he won his first Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, concluding this as one of the best storybook endings of all time.

Adrian Peterson


Adrian Peterson epitomizes what it means to have the heart of a champion. Despite never winning a National Title in college or a Super Bowl with the Vikings, he's taken everything negative in his life and turned it into positive. Adrian was just seven when he saw his own brother die after being hit by a drunk driver. Then, just six years later, his father was sent to prison for money laundering.

Add in the fact that Peterson overcame a terrible ACL injury to come back stronger than ever, plus playing despite the tragic murder of his baby boy, and it's easy to see why AP is a star. Every player in the NFL should strive to be more like him. Then again, not everyone can win MVP! This inspiring text from Peterson himself says it all:

Top Photo Credit: Kyle Rivas/Getty Images