Vikings fans knew when the team drafted Adrian Peterson that they were going to see a running back the likes of which Minnesota had never seen in its history. It was believed that, if he stayed healthy, he could set the franchise record for rushing in six or seven years. He was going to be chasing down Robert Smith, who set the franchise record with 6,818 yards in eight seasons.
However, with 191 more rushing yards, Peterson will have taken away the top spot in franchise history in less than five years – a thought almost unheard in Minnesota history.
It took Smith eight years to establish the mark. It took Chuck Foreman seven years to reach the second spot in franchise history with 5,879 yards. It took Bill Brown 13 seasons to set the bar at 5,757 yards. They were all totals that were well within reach, but few could have anticipated how quickly Peterson would obliterate the competition.
After just one season, Peterson was already 21st in career rushing yards. By the time he finished his second season, he was all the way up to ninth on the all-time list, jumping past former players almost every week, often surpassing them two at a time in a single game. By the time he finished his third season, he was in fifth place. Heading into 2011, the only players left standing in front of him were Foreman and Smith.
It took those players seven and eight years respectively to accomplish Peterson has done in less than five. He passed Foreman in the regular season opener and stands within striking distance of Smith – a record he has proved capable of breaking this week or, if he keeps up with his career average, will break next week.
Peterson said he is aware that he is closing in on the all-time record, but said it isn't serving as a motivation for a struggling team that isn't going to be playing after New Year's Day.
"It's something I've looked at," Peterson said. "Just reality, I'll get it sooner or later this year. But it's not something I'm focusing on."
It has taken Peterson just 70 games to get within striking distance of the record at 6,627 career rushing yards – an average of 95 yards a game. What he has been able to accomplish has been astounding to his teammates – even those who have been around the block for a long time.
"What Adrian has accomplished in such a short period of time is nothing short of astounding," kicker Ryan Longwell said. "I don't think there is much of a debate as to who the best running back in the NFL is. It's Adrian, hands down. He is amazing at what he does."
Fans have become accustomed to great things from Peterson, but for a couple of his new teammates, seeing his exploits firsthand has been an eye-opening experience.
"You feel good blocking for someone like Adrian," offensive tackle Charlie Johnson said. "He has the ability to break a play for a touchdown every time he gets his hands on the ball. He is as tough as anyone on the field and it's incredible to watch him do the things he can do."
"I was a fan of his before I got here, but to see him live on the field is unbelievable," rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "He has such great speed and power and burst, he does things that just don't seem possible. It's a privilege to go out there and try to make the block that can spring him for a big gain."
For his part, Peterson said the all-time franchise rushing record will be something he takes pride in, but it isn't his biggest achievement. That came in his eighth career game, when he became the NFL's all-time single-game rushing leader with 296 yards and three touchdowns against San Diego. He said that's the achievement he takes the most pride in.
As he chases down the last man standing in front of him, Peterson said it is something he will look back on with pride when the moment arrives. Until then, he said, his goals are limited to beating Oakland on Sunday. If he gets the 191 yards needed to take over the top spot Sunday or it takes two or three more games, Peterson said it will be a testament to his work ethic and those who paved the way for him to establish himself officially as the most prolific running back in Vikings history.
"It's a blessing," Peterson said. "It just goes to show that with hard work and the guys that have surrounded me, we've been able to do some good things. I give all glory to God for blessing me to be in this position with the talent he blessed me with."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Peterson running toward the Vikings record
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