With all due respect to fullbacks, there are no little boys who dream of becoming the next Jerome Felton.
Not even Jerome Felton dreamed of becoming Jerome Felton, reigning NFL All-Pro fullback.
“I played soccer until fifth grade,” the second-year Vikings player said Monday. “I thought I’d give it a try in sixth grade. From that moment, I was telling everybody that I was going to the NFL.”
Even as a little kid, Felton was a big kid. But good luck finding anyone in Madisonville, Tenn., who remembers him saying the words “NFL fullback.”
“My favorite player was Jerome Bettis,” Felton said. “That’s who I wanted to be.”
And that’s who he resembled through high school and as Furman’s career scoring leader.
“I was the big back who moved the chains,” Felton said. “That was the role I pictured myself having in the NFL. It hasn’t quite turned out that way, but I’m making the best of it.”
Felton wasn’t complaining. He not only accepts his role, he embraces it. And if you don’t believe it, go back and watch the Vikings’ 23-20 overtime victory over the Bears on Sunday.
Even without the benefit of film review, it was obvious Felton stood out at a position that rarely stands out. To those who make their living breaking down NFL film, Felton had 38 of the best snaps a fullback can string together in one game.
ProFootballFocus.com gave Felton a grade of plus-6.8. The only fullback to earn a higher grade from PFF came in 2009 when Miami’s Lousaka Polite posted a plus-7.1 against the Jets.
“Felton consistently demolished safeties and linebackers alike,” PFF wrote. “You’ll struggle to find such a dominant performance from a running back/fullback combination as this.”
According to PFF, Adrian Peterson gained 112 of his 211 yards before making contact with a Bears defender. Obviously, Felton, who was a pivotal part of Peterson’s 2,097-yard MVP season a year ago, was a key part of that.
“I had asked Jerome in pregame, ‘Do you feel like you’re ready? A lot’s going to be on your shoulders today,’ ” coach Leslie Frazier said. “He said, ‘Coach, I’m bringing all my tools to the game today. I’m not leaving anything in the toolshed.’ I shared that with our team before the game, that everybody needed to have that same attitude and that same approach. He played a heck of a game.”
The Vikings figured they could outmuscle a Bears defense missing six starters. And when you’re looking for extra muscle at the point of attack, it helps having a 6-foot, 248-pound All-Pro fullback with deceptively quick feet and a love for his job.
“You know, you hear a lot about how the fullback is a dying breed,” Felton said. “But look at teams that are successful this year. The 49ers, they use the fullback a lot. Seattle uses the fullback a lot. Even Indy is using the fullback a lot. The Saints use one. A good fullback is a favorable position to have.”
‘Just follow me’
There were two core play calls that Felton used to stand out on Sunday. The first is called “37 Power.” Ask Bears safety Craig Steltz how hard Felton hits on that one.