On Tuesday it was Herschel Walker lauding St. Louis Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley following a visit to practice at Rams Park. On Wednesday it was Adrian Peterson praising the rookie runner during a conference call.
“He’s very impressive,” Peterson said. “I like that aggression. The way he plays, just fast, physical. He’s a determined runner. He does have that combination, that nice blend of power and speed and great vision. He’s been outstanding this year, man. I was doing an interview the other day and I was taking my hat off to the young guy for what he’s been able to accomplish thus far, especially coming off a major knee injury.”
Gurley has been racking up compliments even faster than rushing yards recently and he’s been gaining ground at a record rate the past four games.
“He’s the real deal,” Peterson said.
The Minnesota Vikings (5-2) will host the Rams (4-3) on Sunday, providing a matchup of two of the best running backs in the NFL currently — the 30-year-old Peterson and the 21-year-old Gurley.
The veteran said he sees some of himself in Gurley’s running style.
“Yes,” Peterson said. “He’s fast. He’s aggressive. He plays physical. He has nice feet, nice vision. So, those are the qualities that I feel like I have as well.”
Asked if Gurley is as violent as a runner as he is, Peterson laughed.
“Yes, I feel that he is aggressive as well,” Peterson said.
Gurley was compared to Peterson throughout the draft evaluation process, thanks to their similar body types — Peterson is listed at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, while Gurley is 6-1 and 227 pounds — and running styles.
The Rams’ rookie called Peterson the gold standard for running backs.
“A guy as great as him, everybody is going to look at him and try to model their game after him,” Gurley said. “… Yeah, there’s only one AP. He’s the gold standard. You can consider him as the best.”
Despite only playing in five games, Gurley ranks fifth with 575 yards. He leads the league with 115 yards rushing per game (Peterson’s 90.4 ranks third).
Gurley tried to downplay the head-to-head aspect of Sunday’s game, but Peterson offered some insight about what it was like when he first entered the league and matched up against players he had looked up to.
“I know that he’s going to put his best foot forward,” Peterson said. “I remember when I came in and there were backs that I looked up to that I encountered during the season, it was like, ‘Man, I want to make sure that I out-do ‘LT’ (LaDainian Tomlinson) or this guy, that guy, Frank Gore. I’m going to continue to do what I’ve been doing and I plan on putting my best foot forward. I can say a little more effort just because I know this young guy is going to come in here pretty excited to play as well.”