Adrian Peterson. Who is he? Is he who we think he is? While I think it’s a bit premature to be awarding him the title of the ‘next LaDanian Tomlinson’ or the ‘next Eric Dickerson’ let’s delve into his history a bit and see if we can discover why he’s one of the most talented and exciting rookie running backs we’ve ever seen.
Adrian Peterson was born on March 21st, 1985 in Palestine, Texas. He had a rough childhood, with his father, Nelson Peterson being sentenced to ten years in prison when he was thirteen and his brother Brian being killed at the age of nine by a drunk driver.
Adrian participated in track and field and basketball from early on and up until his high school years. He excelled at both. However, it was his junior and senior years when he played football where people begin to realize he was going to be very, very good.
His senior year in high school, he was voted the Consensus national player of the year after racking up 2,960 yards on 252 carries and 32 touchdowns. This dwarfed even his stellar junior season where he rushed for 2,051 on 246 carries and 22 touchdowns. Suffice it to say, The Oklahoma Sooners were quite excited to have him on board.
They were even more excited when he broke several NCAA rookie rushing records and finished second in the Heisman balloting, all in his freshman year. He finished with 1,925 yards on 339 carries and 15 touchdowns.
A.D. (or ‘All Day’ – his nickname) led the Sooners to the national championship game against the U.S.C. Trojans. The Trojans won however, in a rout, 55-19.
A.D. injured his ankle early in the 2005 season and ended up missing four games. Even so, he rushed for 1,108 yards on 220 carries and 14 touchdowns. He was included on the All-Big 12 Conference team.
Here's Bob Stoops commenting on how Adrian Peterson compared to other running backs he’s seen, as said at a Big 12 media day.
“I can’t compare him to anyone else; I haven’t seen anyone like him. He’s a powerful, explosive back with great speed and great style. He’s a tough, physical runner. Bottom line, until he was hurt, he’s had a lot of success. It’s not his fault that he got hurt. We plan to give him the ball a lot and hopefully he has a great year. He’s incredibly physical. He’s a guy who can run a 4.3 and weighs 220 pounds. He absolutely destroys a weight room.”
Peterson’s final season in 2006 allowed him to play in front of his father, Nelson, for the first time when he was released from prison. He also broke his collar-bone in said game, ending the rest of his regular season.
He returned in the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State, needing only 151 yards to pass Billy Sims to be Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher.
The game, arguably one of the best in Bowl Championship Series history, was eventually won by Boise State in overtime 43-42. Peterson finished with only 77 yards, 74 yards short of Sims school record. For his career, he had 4,045 yards on 648 carries and 41 touchdowns.
Peterson kept mum about his future plans until January 15th, 2007 when he announced he would enter the NFL draft, not returning for his senior season. Mel Kiper Jr. a draft analyst said of Peterson,
"You can make the argument, [Peterson] is the best player in this draft, if not, certainly one of the top three.”
Comparisons were made to Eric Dickerson as well, when coming out of college. Funny, that halfway through his rookie season, it’s being predicted he has a realistic shot at breaking Dickerson’s single season rushing record.
Tragedy struck again when Peterson’s step-brother Chris Paris was shot to death in Houston, Texas a day before the NFL Combine.
Still, he trudged on, becoming a Minnesota Viking when they took him with the 7th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Upon breaking Jamal Lewis’ single game rushing record on November 4th, 2007, many NFL teams who passed on Peterson in the draft wished they hadn’t done so due to his injury concerns. Doing so meant they perhaps passed on what could be the greatest back in NFL history.
We’ll conclude with a quote from Deion Sanders about Peterson :
“He has the vision of a Marshall Faulk, the power of a Terrell Davis, and the speed of an Eric Dickerson. Let’s pray he has the endurance of an Emmitt Smith.”
All day, all day. (Original post at http://sportcrack.net [in the archives] )