When the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson in 2007, he fell to the seventh pick because of injury concerns and questions about his long-term health because of his violent running style. At the time, Peterson’s goal was to be one of the greatest running backs of all time.
Less than seven seasons into his professional career, Peterson has achieved just about everything he could have accomplished on an individual basis. He’s viewed as the most dominant running back of his era. He’s won an MVP award. He’s an annual Pro Bowl selection. He’s been everything the Vikings have envisioned.
In Sunday’s overtime win, Peterson’s 101st career game, he went over the 10,000 career rushing yard milestone. The only players to do it faster are Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson (91 games) and Jim Brown (98 games). Peterson acknowledged the milestone Sunday, sharing the credit for his success with those who have opened the running lanes for him throughout his career.
“It really means a lot,” Peterson said. “A lot of guys over the years have contributed to it. Matt Birk. Steve Hutchinson. Bryant McKinnie. The guys from this year. Sully (John Sullivan). My fullbacks through the years. Just to be in that elite group, it’s truly a blessing. God has really blessed me to be surrounded by some great guys to help me get to that goal. I sit here and I’m just humbled.”
Head coach Leslie Frazier has marveled at Peterson ability and passion for the game. Many thought Peterson’s career could be over or, at a minimum, horribly altered by his devastating knee injury suffered two years ago. But, he has returned better than ever and, despite being slowed by injuries this season, he remains the centerpiece of the Vikings offense.
“He’s amazing in so many ways,” Frazier said. “Even last year playing with a sports hernia at the end of the year and to come now with a groin that’s sore and really inhibits him in a lot of ways, to continue to battle through it and perform the way he has performed, it’s just amazing. I don’t know if medically you’d ever say a guy could carry the ball 35 times and rush for 211 yards dealing with what he’s dealing with – the hamstring earlier in the season and now the groin (injury). He’s amazing.”
His teammates shared in Frazier’s high praise. They marvel at Peterson’s unique skill set as much as anyone, because they know how difficult it is to become an elite player who can dominate games.
“He’s a beast,” Jared Allen said. “He is as dominant a player as we have in this league. It seems like every week he does something that just makes you shake your head in disbelief. He’s unbelievable.”
Center John Sullivan, who has blocked for Peterson since becoming a starter in 2009, realizes the difference Peterson makes to an offense, especially in an era where running backs have seen their role diminished.
“The fact that we’re a run-first offense is because of Adrian,” Sullivan said. “Our league has been more and more about passing the ball. Not many teams are capable of being a run-dominant offense, but we are because we have Adrian back there making big plays for us.”
Asked who he would compare himself to, Peterson acknowledged the only players who reached 10,000 yards before him.
“Jim Brown and Eric Dickerson are the guys that I looked up to,” Peterson said. “(They were) the guys that motivated me to be better than them and I still have a long way to go. I’ve reached this mark and it’s great. Give God all the glory for blessing me to be in a position all of the things that I have accomplished so far, but I still have long way to go to surpass those guys. That is what I look to do.”
One thing coaches, players and fans have learned over the years is that Peterson achieves the goals put in front of him, whether it seems possible or not, and thrives on doubters.
“If Adrian says he can run for 20,000 yards, I wouldn’t doubt him,” Phil Loadholt said. “He is the greatest running back I’ve ever seen and I think everyone else is starting to put him in that category with the all-time great running backs. It took him less than seven years to accomplish something most running backs could only dream of accomplishing in their entire career. He’s still at the top of his game. I don’t know how much longer he wants to play, but if he sets his goal at getting 20,000, you don’t want to be the person who says he can’t do it, because he will.”
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.