Coach's son putting lessons into action

Toby Gerhart has been hearing the motivational messages from his father and continues to put that advice into action. That started this weekend at Vikings rookie camp as Gerhart starts his professional career. He and Brad Childress talked about the beginning of his complementary role to Adrian Peterson.

The Vikings are getting their first look at running back Toby Gerhart this weekend as the rookies complete their initial post-draft minicamp. What they are quickly discovering is that Gerhart is ready to get his NFL career started now, not when training camp opens in July or the regular season begins in New Orleans in September.

Gerhart's excitement about coming to the Viking is tempered by growing up as a coach's son. He was taught about being a responsible player and teammate and was engrained with a simple motto that has carried through from him being the Gatorade Player of the Year in California as a high school senior to finishing second in the Heisman Trophy as a senior at Stanford to being a second-round pick by the Vikings.

"One thing he always said was never be content," Gerhart said. "As cliché as it is, when you think you've made it, you haven't. Just keep working and strive to be the best. Every day in a new battle, a new day. You've got to get better. Don't be satisfied with the practice today. You've got to prove yourself tomorrow. Every day go out and make it the best you can be."

Gerhart is getting to know some of his new teammates and getting into the mix of the Vikings locker room. One player he has yet to sit down with since the draft is fellow running back Adrian Peterson. But, like hundreds of other players, coaches, media types and fans that have met Peterson, he came away with much the same first impression – a painful one.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet," Gerhart said. "I met him briefly at the Super Bowl and shook his hand. He almost broke my hand."

Gerhart's integration to the Vikings offense is going to come in phases, but head coach Brad Childress said he has the intangibles to make an immediate impact not as a backup running back, but as a complementary running back to Peterson. He said that his initial impressions on Gerhart were essentially the things he liked about him as the coaching staff was doing their film study in the scouting process.

"(He has) a big, thick body," Childress said. "You can see it on film and you can see it on tape. It will be interesting when he gets padded up and see how he comes out the other end (of the line of scrimmage). He catches it way better than anybody probably gives him credit for. You can't be a centerfielder and not be able to catch the ball and have some hand-eye coordination. He can do all those things and I know how he looks at the inside zone because that is on tape."

One of the topics of discussion with both Gerhart and Childress dealt with the Vikings' decision to move up in the draft to take him. From Gerhart's perspective, he wasn't sure the Vikings had much interest in him other than being a team that needed to replace Chester Taylor on the roster. There hadn't been much contact between the team and Gerhart and, as the second round began to unfold, he was convinced he was going somewhere else.

"I wasn't sure," Gerhart said of potential interest from the Vikings. "I met with them at the Combine and I felt the meeting went good. But I really hadn't heard from them until that phone call (to say the Vikings had picked me). It was kind of interesting. It was Tennessee's pick coming up and my agent said Tennessee is interested and a team to look for to take you. Then the phone starts ringing. I thought it was Tennessee and it was the Minnesota Vikings. They said, ‘We traded up' and, sure enough, on TV they said they had traded up. It was just an exciting, awesome experience and I'm ecstatic to be on the team and helping the team make it to the Super Bowl."

From the Vikings' side, there was the same sort of thinking. They needed a running back, they liked Gerhart and were convinced he would be gone by the time they were scheduled to pick at No. 30 in the second round. They moved up 11 spots and Childress said the scenario was out there to make the jump up the board.

"I thought he was unique," Childress said. "I think it was driven by a couple of things – our trade down (in the first round), which allowed us to have some fodder to trade up. I think everything kind of worked hand and glove there. As we start to go across the board we kind of had an idea who was going to be laying there and who wasn't going to be laying there and where we probably had to take someone."

As Gerhart finishes up his first minicamp, he will continue to be under the microscope with fans, who believe he has to replace the production that Taylor brought to the Vikings offense. While achieving that may be too tall an order for a rookie, Gerhart said he's up to the challenge and it's all part of life in the NFL.

"There's always pressure," Gerhart said. "You're trying to make the team and replace a great player. They bring in a running back when a running back leaves. Those are big shoes to fill, but I'm going to work hard and try to do that – out-do what is asked of me and embrace the role I'm receive and contribute to this team."


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.

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