Adrian Peterson is one of the most exciting running backs in the NFL.
At 6'2", 215 pounds, his combination of speed, power, and explosiveness has many people watching Vikings games simply to catch the top-10 walking highlights live in action.
But with only two and a half seasons under his belt, is he really ready to be compared to legends such as Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, and the Hall of Famers we worship as football gods?
Peterson was born on March 21, 1985 in Palestine, Texas, a rural area where he came from a very dysfunctional family. He joked in an ESPN interview that the reason he became so agile was from chasing rabbits in the lawn.
Despite the family issues, he excelled in high school, amassing 5,011 rushing yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and scoring an astounding 54 touchdowns.
While Maurice Clarett was suing the NFL regarding the age limit, Peterson was highly mentioned as a player that would easily make the transition from high school to the NFL.
After an amazing performance at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he announced his committment to Oklahoma as the top high school player by College Football News and Rivals.com
Adrian Peterson was an instant explosion at Oklahoma, breaking the freshman NCAA rushing record, recording 1,925 yards as a true freshman.
Despite suffering multiple injuries, he still managed to be mentioned by Mel Kiper Junior as a top-three draft pick after rushing for 4,057 yards and scoring 41 touchdowns (all in limited games).
Draft and the NFL
Peterson was selected with the seventh overall pick by the Minnesota Vikings, yet it was reported two teams passed on his questionable injury status.
"Purple Jesus" was phenomenal in his first season, quickly breaking the single game rushing record, recording 296 yards against the Chicago Bears...as a ROOKIE!
He was awarded with the Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the Pro Bowl MVP as well.
Future and Comparison to the Greats
Of course there have been critics, referring to the numerous players who turned out to be busts, but even the greats themselves have praised his skill, saying that they haven't seen a more versatile back than him.
These statistics breaks down the similarities between running legends and Adrian Peterson, through as many games as Peterson has played:
Adrian Peterson—4,100 yards, 33 TD
Barry Sanders—4,024 yards, 40 TD
Walter Payton—3,319 yards, 34 TD
Emmitt Smith—3,975 yards, 37 TD
Terrell Davis—4,154 yards, 33 TDs
As you can see, these statistics are eerily similar. The only difference that separates "All Day" from the rest is the style of defense that's being played in the NFL. With each year, players are getting bigger, faster, stronger, than their predecessors.
Peterson is still young and certainly has room to improve. Within the next two to three seasons, if he can learn to hold the ball more and avoid injuries, he will be become another legend that will go down in history as one of the best ever.