Top of the class
Peterson stands way above fellow hyped rookies
Posted: Thursday November 8, 2007 2:47PM; Updated: Friday November 9, 2007 9:51AM
The photograph sits in a frame in Adrian Peterson's home, a picture of him standing with JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Calvin Johnson and Gaines Adams.
Each is dressed in a suit as part of April's NFL draft festivities. Two quarterbacks with potential. A receiver with great hands. A pass-rusher with speed. A running back with a question mark.
Peterson, who entered the draft with concerns surrounding his durability, slipped to the seventh pick, and the Minnesota Vikings became the beneficiaries of what could be the greatest rushing season a rookie has ever known. Nobody is asking about Peterson's collarbone now.
"He's not afraid of contact," Ernie Sims, the Detroit Lions linebacker, said after facing Peterson earlier in the season. "His body looks like a veteran, his physical attributes. I think he's going to be the same for years to come."
After bringing Peterson along slowly in the early weeks, Minnesota coach Brad Childress is calling Peterson's number more often and the results have been staggering. Sharing the same field with San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson on Sunday, Peterson set a new single-game rushing record with 296 yards. Each week he seems to unveil a new wrinkle or garner some new comparison.
Is he the second coming of Eric Dickerson, with that size, speed and upright running style? Does he have a sprinkle of Gale Sayers, with that quickness, shiftiness and cutback ability? Does he even look like a rookie?
"I don't look at him as a rookie," Sims said.
Peterson's jump from Palestine High to the University of Oklahoma had a similar feel. As a freshman he rushed for 1,925 yards, setting the Oklahoma single-season record and NCAA record for a freshman. He has made the leap to the pros -- following just three seasons in college -- look similarly stress free.