Historic names, yards in front of Peterson

Adrian Peterson still has his sights set on the all-time rushing record, which will take time he hopes he has. The names in front of him now are a who’s-who of running back legends.

When he was being honored at Adrian Peterson Day in Palestine, Texas, Peterson broached the subject of whether he believes he can still achieve the top spot on the all-time rushing list, held by Emmitt Smith at 18,355 yards.

Peterson sits past the halfway mark at 10,190 yards, but still remains 8,165 yards short. He turned 30 this spring, which is often the death knell for running backs, but like Smith, Peterson is no average athlete. Turning 30 is simply a number for him.

While expecting him to break the all-time record may seem a bit far-fetched. If he were to play until age 35, which would mean he plays six more seasons, Peterson would have to average 1,361 yards a season. If he plays five more seasons, he would need to average 1,633 yards a year in order to catch Smith.

That may seem far-fetched, but it also seemed nearly impossible that he could come back from a devastating shredding of his knee ligaments to return nine months later and fall just eight yards short of Eric Dickerson’s all-time single-season record of 2,105 yards in 1984. Despite being kept on a pitch count for the first month of the season as a precaution, Peterson defied the odds – perhaps forever changing the way players approach returning from a significant injury.

Peterson may not catch Smith atop the all-time rushing list, but as he continues his career this fall he will continue to climb the charts and cement his legacy as an all-time superstar talent.

Peterson currently sits 28th on the all-time list, but with 1,000 yards this season, he’ll work his way into 21st place, passing Ottis Anderson (10,273), Eddie George (10,441), Tiki Barber (10,449), Thomas Jones (10,591), Jamal Lewis (10,607), Rickey Watters (10,653) and Warrick Dunn (10,967).

The only active player that remains in front of him is Frank Gore, who currently sits 20th at 11,073 yards and is continuing his career with Indianapolis. His numbers will increase as Peterson tries to chase him down, so he is the only wild card in the legends in the top 20. What his final number will be determined later, but Peterson is two years younger and will likely track him down soon enough.

For the others, Peterson has them squarely in his sights.

If he runs for 2,000 yards before the end of his career, he will pass O.J. Simpson (11,236), Corey Dillon (11,241), John Riggins (11,352), Steven Jackson (11,388), Fred Taylor (11,695), Thurman Thomas (12,074) and Franco Harris (12,120). Depending on how many yards Gore gains before his career ends, if Peterson passes Gore, with 2,000 yards he would be in 13th place all-time with Hall of Famers in his sights.

If Peterson runs for 3,000 yards before the end of his career, he would pass Marcus Allen (12,243), Edgerrin James (12,246), Marshall Faulk (12,279), Jim Brown (12,312) and Tony Dorsett (12,739) – with the very real possibility of passing Allen, James, Faulk and Brown in the same game. If he reaches that milestone, he will be in eighth place on the all-time rushing list.

If he runs for 4,000 more yards, he will surpass Eric Dickerson (13,259), Jerome Bettis (13,662), LaDainian Tomlinson (13,684) and Curtis Martin (14,101). As would be expected, it will take longer to keep his climb going, but if he achieves that feat, he will fourth on the all-time list.

The final three will be the hardest to surpass. He will need 5,079 yards to pass Barry Sanders for third place, 6,536 yards to pass Walter Payton and 8,165 to become the all-time rushing king.

While first place will be a tall order, it will be a historic run up the top of the charts that will make the final few years of Peterson’s career epic and, for those who doubt he can reach the top of the mountain, remember what they said prior to the 2012 season when the same skeptics said Peterson would never be the same following knee surgery.

He proved them wrong then and may do the same again.

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