Vikings' Peterson keeps pushing to be the best ever

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 8, 2013 - 6:39 AM

Vikings tailback eyes NFL rushing record, hopes for championship.

With 10,057 yards in his rearview mirror and faith that his future will carry him past Emmitt Smith’s rushing record of 18,355, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson sat down with the Star Tribune this week to discuss the journey to this point and how far he thinks he and the Vikings can go, with or without an elite quarterback.

The reigning league MVP expressed frustration with his team’s current quarterback situation but insisted that winning a Super Bowl without an elite passer is possible because … well, with Adrian Lewis Peterson, anything is, always has been and always will be considered possible.

“I get that from my mom,” Peterson said with a smile.

Bonita Jackson gave Peterson more than his speed as a former track star who won Texas 3A state titles in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and triple jump in 1983. She also nurtured the mental strength that has carried Peterson through good times and bad. And tragic times that include an older brother killed by a drunken driver, a father jailed for money laundering in connection to drug dealing, a half-brother shot and killed on the eve of Peterson’s scouting combine workout and a 2-year-old son, whom Peterson had just been made aware of, beaten to death, allegedly by the boyfriend of the child’s mother, two months ago in South Dakota.

The first time Peterson touched a football in an organized game, he was 7 years old. He played for a Pop Warner team called the Oilers in Palestine, Texas.

“I can’t remember exactly what I did that day,” Peterson said. “But I do know I scored a couple of times. I was the running back. I’m always the running back.”

It wasn’t long before Peterson realized he wasn’t like any of the other kids. As a senior at Palestine High School, he rushed for 2,960 yards and 32 touchdowns, finishing his career off with 350 yards and six touchdowns before taking a seat at halftime.

“I really can’t say that I knew I was able to predict the future,” Peterson said. “But at a young age, I believed I’d be where I am now. I grew up a Cowboys fan and I’d always tell myself, ‘I’m going to make it to the pros.’ I looked past college and the process of getting to the NFL. I was totally stuck on, ‘I’m going to make it to the NFL and I’m going to be the best.’ ”

He’d often share those thoughts with Bonita.

“She was always positive,” Peterson said. “She was always encouraging me, saying, ‘Yeah, you can do it. You’re going to be the best.’ She was always telling me that those dreams — those Santa Claus dreams — will come true. I just always believed her.”

Quarterback quandary

Tarvaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb, Brett Favre, Joe Webb, a washed-up Donovan McNabb for six games, Gus Frerotte, Josh Freeman for one game, Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. Those are the 10 quarterbacks Peterson has played with in seven seasons.

A look at that unimpressive list is telling. The only time in Peterson’s career that the Vikings have had an elite quarterback playing at an elite level was 2009 with Favre. That’s also the furthest the Vikings have advanced in Peterson’s career, going 12-4, winning the NFC North and reaching the NFC title game before being undone by turnovers that were out of character for the team that season.

This year, the Vikings (3-8-1) rank 25th in passing heading into Sunday’s game at Baltimore (6-6). Ponder, Freeman and Cassel, who will make his third start of the season Sunday, all have started games this season. Combined, they have 12 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions and a 75.1 passer rating that would rank 31st in the league.

Asked to describe his level of frustration with the quarterback situation, Peterson thought for a moment. He’s never been one to complain.

“It can be frustrating at times when it’s just not consistent at that position,” Peterson said. “It makes it harder on the run in a sense. … I think the play will pick up. I feel like we just need someone that can have the mind-set that they want to be a champion at the quarterback position.”

Asked if the Vikings need an elite quarterback to win the Super Bowl, even with him on the team, Peterson didn’t hesitate.

“I don’t necessarily think so,” he said. “We need someone who can manage the game. I feel like the quarterback of the team is someone who just needs to manage and get the job done. But I would surely expect that person to go in with the mind-set of, ‘Hey, I’m the leader of this team.’ The same mind-set that I have. I feel like that would be the best solution.”

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