This column first appeared in the November 8 issue of The Daily Dispatch.
Three years ago, he was The truth.
Two weeks ago, he was The man child.
On Sunday, he became The second coming.
He is Adrian Peterson and we should have seen it coming.
In an interview before enrolling to Oklahoma, the nation’s No. 1 recruit from Palestine, Texas said that if he could, he would make the jump from high school to the NFL (in a later interview, he said that he actually said if he was going to get paid Donovan McNabb money, then yes he would make the leap).
Then as a Sooner freshman in 2004, he led the nation in rushing with 1,925 yards, scoring 15 touchdowns which led to a second-place finish in the Heisman voting. He ended his collegiate career with 4,045 yards and 41 touchdowns, averaging 130.5 yards per game. Numbers that made you say in retrospect that just maybe that kid was ready for the pro game.
The hype started again in February at the NFL rookie combine.
At 6’2, 218, he ran a 4.3 40, the fastest among all running backs. This prompted ESPN.com to list him as one of the next 50 NFL Hall of Famers before he even played a down in the league. But the numbers didn’t prevent Oakland, Detroit, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Arizona and Washington from passing on him in the Draft and one, Minnesota, from selecting him even after they had signed running back Chester Taylor away from the Ravens.
Two weeks ago, we got a prelude of what was yet to come.
In the Vikings 34-31 win over division opponent Chicago Bears, he ran for 224 yards and three touchdowns. At the time, it was one of the best performances by a rookie running back — ever.
That was when he blasted his way to 296 yards and three touchdowns in the 35-17 Vikings win over the San Diego Chargers. That 296 is the single game rushing record — an amount never been done before, ever.
Sunday’s output put his season total to 1,036 yards which leads the NFL and put him 268 yards ahead of the next rusher (Pittsburgh’s Willie Parker with 768). He is well on pace to not only break Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record (1,808) but also to become the sixth player ever to rush for 2,000 yards in a season (O.J. Simpson, Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Jamal Lewis, Terrell Davis) and possibly the all-time mark in a season of 2,105 set by Dickerson.
All of this in a career consisting of eight games.
Said Keyshawn Johnson on ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown, “Most people will think it’s ridiculous that Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the National Football League right now, but he is. He is a force to be reckoned with in the league and if you look at some of the greats down the line, he can be the next Eric Dickerson.”
Said Peterson about his day, “I set my bar high, because I know anything is possible when you continue to work hard.”
To set your bar high is one thing, to put into the atmosphere is another. It’s too early to call him a great — just the second coming.