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It took less than 24 months for Adrian Peterson to morph from being an injured college student to being the best player in the NFL. Such a meteoric rise may be the only thing faster than Peterson himself.
“His speed is what sets him apart,” commented Bears linebacker Lance Briggs to the Chicago Tribune after Peterson’s 131 yards helped the Vikings rout the Monsters of the Midway in late November. “It can throw off your tackling angles. You can’t make a regular form tackle. By the time you get up to his body, he is three yards away from you.”
Thanks to recruiting websites and YouTube, Peterson’s gridiron exploits have been long familiar to football fans. The Palestine, TX high school wonder was the top recruit in the country as a senior. Peterson dazzled a national audience at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Perhaps it is appropriate that Peterson has been in the spotlight “All Day”. Peterson’s father Nelson christened his son “AD”- for All Day- while Adrian was a prepster to salute his son’s relentless running style.
Committing to Oklahoma, AD assembled arguably the greatest freshman season in NCAA history. Peterson’s 1,925 rushing yards set a frosh record. He was a finalist for both the Heisman and the Doak Walker Awards.
Two years later- despite missing seven games due to a broken collarbone- junior Peterson was a finalist for the Walker and Maxwell Awards. He rushed for 100 yards in six of Oklahoma’s first seven games, capped by a 211 yard performance against Oregon.
Minnesota selected him with the seventh pick of the 2007 NFL Draft. If GMs had a crystal ball, he might have been first. Peterson set the NFL single game record when he romped for 296 yards against San Diego on November 4th. The Associated Press named him their Offensive Rookie of the Year. Peterson started- and won MVP honors at the 2007 Pro Bowl.
Thoughts of a sophomore slump ended about one play into the 2008 year. Peterson ran for 103 yards on just 19 carries in a tough opening night loss to Green Bay. In all six games against NFC North foes, Peterson broke the 100 yard barrier, while averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
Minnesota shrugged off a 1-3 start to win the NFC North. Peterson’s 1,760 rushing yards, 4.8 yards per carry average and 10 touchdowns this season were the oars moving this Viking ship.
Now- in just his second NFL season- Peterson becomes the first person since Dan Marino in 1984 to win the Bert Bell Award while having such little professional experience. Here is some perspective on this accomplishment: for the next 12 months, most car rental agencies will surcharge Peterson as a youthful driver.
"It's an honor to be listed among such great players from past years and humbling at the same time,” said Peterson on winning the Award. “I thank the Maxwell Club and the people who voted for me, but I really want to thank the big boys up front and the receivers out wide fighting for every block. I'm lucky to be surrounded by a group of guys who are the best teammates in the League."
Peterson- the 50th Bell Winner- becomes the third Viking to be so honored. He joins Randall Cunningham (1998) and Fran Tarkenton (1975) as players who took the award back to the Twin Cities.
Last January, the Houston Chronicle asked one individual for his thoughts on today’s NFL stars. “I'll tell you who I like,” said the man. “Adrian Peterson. He is on another level. He is a great runner. He moves the football. He runs the way I’d like to see a runner run.”
The man- a fellow by the name of Jim Brown- might know a thing or two about elite running backs. It may be premature to lump Peterson in with Brown- yet- but for now an NFL fan can watch his highlights All Day. With a young talent like Peterson, those highlights won’t get old.