He now has sprinted to the front of the NFL’s Most Valuable Player race.
And when everyone else saw a rebuilding Vikings team that would be fortunate to win six games, Peterson saw little time to waste and strived to propel a playoff push.
Now, with two games left, the 8-6 Vikings find themselves gripping the NFC’s final wild-card spot — with Peterson on an unprecedented tear, totaling 1,313 yards and nine touchdowns in the past eight games alone.
So why wouldn’t Emmitt Smith’s record seem attainable?
Says Vikings coach Leslie Frazier: "Obviously, 2019 is a long way off. But I know Adrian and the way he thinks. He can’t fathom that it will take him that long. Not him. So, hey …"
That’s the thing about Peterson. He has this persuasive power and a unique way of warping time.
Somehow, at the end of this extraordinary year, he can talk about potential 2019 achievements as if they were just around the corner while in the same conversation make Dec. 24, 2011, seem so far, far, far in the past.
• • •
Adrian Peterson has been given a full tank of positive energy.
It never depletes either.
Last Christmas Eve, an ill-timed hit by Washington’s DeJon Gomes left Peterson with torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee.
In the weeks that followed, all logical Peterson discussions carried a glum theme: whether one of the all-time greats had his brilliance stolen from him in his prime.
Now, one day from the anniversary of that setback, the entire Peterson conversation centers on whether he can complete the greatest rushing season in history, needing 294 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season record of 2,105 yards.
Says left tackle Matt Kalil: "The way he’s going? He’ll blow by that. Easily."
Peterson learned long ago that even seemingly unfathomable goals can be attained with precise mind calibration. Crank the willpower and enthusiasm dials up, turn the hesitance down.