ASHBURN, Va. — At one point during the Washington Redskins win against Miami in Week 6, linebacker Jon Bostic took a moment to give teammates a history lesson. What he saw from Adrian Peterson that day reminded him of what he experienced as a rookie playing against Peterson.
In 2013, Bostic, then a linebacker with the Chicago Bears, played against Peterson when he rushed for 211 yards in a Minnesota Vikings win. The power and the will with which Bostic saw Peterson play against Miami — he rushed for 118 yards — reminded him of what he saw six years earlier. He filled in his teammates, such as rookie linebacker Cole Holcomb.
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“I was sitting here telling them, what’s crazy is he’s still running really hard, but do you understand what he was like?”
Bostic knows from that day in 2013.
“I still remember that first play of the game, he ran a stretch to our right,” Bostic said. “You literally heard his stretch footwork when he took off. That’s how hard he’s running. I made the tackle, and it’s crazy. You never get star-struck, but I was like, ‘Dang, I just tackled AP.'”
For Bostic, it was an all-time memory of a running back who will head to the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day.
While that memory lives on for Bostic, Peterson has plenty more from his 10 years playing with the Vikings. Peterson, who is in his second season with Washington and is eighth all time in rushing yards with 13,625, will face the team that drafted him No. 7 overall in 2007 on Thursday (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox).
Here are some of the best stories Peterson recalls from his time in Minnesota:
Peterson struggled to recall when this took place. He thought it was the San Diego game in his rookie season (2007), but then he remembered that was the day he rushed for 296 yards and became a national star. It had to be in 2009. Maybe it was the San Francisco game that year. Or it could have been after a playoff win against Dallas later that season, a game Prince attended.
“I can’t remember the game, to be honest,” Peterson said. “But that isn’t even the important part. The important part is that I met Prince.”
The two Minnesota treasures met in the runway inside the Metrodome following a game. They chatted for a few minutes. Prince told Peterson he was a big Vikings fan; the running back praised Prince’s music. They swapped stories of being big fans of each other. Peterson then did something unusual: He asked for an autograph. The only other person from which Peterson has requested an autograph? Mary J. Blige.
Peterson and Prince never met again, but it was a highlight in a special season. The Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game before losing to the New Orleans Saints in January 2010. Meeting Prince stood out.
“That was one of my great memories,” Peterson said, “because he was a huge Vikings fan. That 2009 season, all those home games, that was just amazing. The fans [are] always so loud, every seat. They just came and supported and showed so much love. They do it all the time, but that year was special.”
Playing with Favre, Moss and McNabb
For three consecutive seasons, Peterson played with three others he considered legends, starting with Brett Favre in 2009. Then came Randy Moss’ return to Minnesota a year later, but Moss lasted four games in his second Vikings stint before being released. After Favre left, Donovan McNabb came to town in 2011. It wasn’t pretty: McNabb started six games and was released on Dec. 1.
“These young guys now probably look at me the way I did at [Favre, Moss and McNabb]: ‘Wow, I didn’t think I’d ever get to play with this guy,'” Peterson said. “It’s crazy. I played with Brett Favre, McNabb and Randy Moss.”
On Moss: “Oh, man, he was the coolest person on Earth. He was so chill and down to earth. He was 100 percent authentic. He said what was on his mind. He was just a cool, cool guy. … I’d seen some of the catches he used to make, and it was like, man, that was ridiculous. I’d seen it his whole career, but to see it in person was special. That’s definitely one of my highlights, playing with him.”
On Favre: “He was definitely a jokester. He’d get on guys. He was just one of the guys, one of your buddies that you could kick back and relax with. He used to slap guys on their butts, the offensive linemen. But he’d do it so hard. He used to do it soooo hard. He’s got those big hands, too. Guys used to pop up, like, ‘Whoa! What happened?’ Then of course they’d see it’s Favre, and they don’t say anything whether they liked it or not.”
On McNabb: “He’s a legend. He had a great personality as well. He was a good teammate, great leader, and he had one of those personalities like Favre.”
Living through the 2012 season
Peterson tore his ACL in Week 16 of the 2011 season, yet he returned the next season to win an MVP award. He did it while playing the last six weeks with a sports hernia.
“It was rough, man,” Peterson said. “It took a toll. When game time came around, I numbed it up and went out there and played.”
He never thought about sitting out. He would get what work he could during the week and play on Sundays.
“On Fridays, we would do a 10-minute walk-through with Adrian,” said Geoff Schwartz, a reserve offensive lineman that season with Minnesota. “We’d go over all the plays. And then he’d come out and rush for 200 yards every Sunday. I’ve never seen that before.”
Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry that season. He was 9 yards shy of breaking the single-season mark held by Eric Dickerson. He rushed for more than 150 yards seven times, tying Earl Campbell for the record. In those last six weeks with the hernia, he rushed for 969 yards with two games of more than 200 and a third with 199.
“That year … was next-level for him,” former Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “When anyone asks me who the toughest guy I had to face was, Adrian usually is the first guy that pops into my mind. … He hits an extra gear, and especially that game in Minnesota that year, where they had to beat us to get in, he was next-level.
“We shut them down for a series or two, and then the crowd would die down, and all it took was one 15–to-20-yard chunk run to get everyone energized, and we felt helpless.”
Peterson entered the last regular-season game needing 208 yards to break Dickerson’s record. Not that Peterson dwelled on the prospects.
“I wasn’t thinking about the record at all,” he said. “I had made that mistake down in Houston [the previous week], and I was thinking about it too much, and they shut us down in the run game.”
The Texans, in the Week 15 game, held Peterson to 86 yards on 25 carries. It was much different in the finale against Green Bay. Of his 199 yards that day, 36 came on the final drive — and 26 occurred with 24 seconds left to reach the Packers’ 11-yard line. From there, the Vikings kicked a game-winning field goal to earn a playoff spot.
“I remember all game just trying to get him those yards, and every time he’d get 3 or 4 yards, the crowd would roar louder and louder and louder,” Schwartz said. “Everyone knew what was coming. We weren’t trying to trick anybody. … and they couldn’t stop us.”
Performing for Jim Brown
In the first game of the 2009 season, Peterson rushed for 180 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 34-20 win at Cleveland — in front of Hall of Famer Jim Brown. Before that season, The Sporting News flew Peterson to southern California so Brown could interview him for a story. During the interview, Brown told Peterson that he was “the most complete back I have seen in a long time.”
Nothing Brown witnessed in that Sept. 13, 2009, game would have changed his mind.
“It meant a lot because Jim Brown was a guy that paved the way for all of us,” Peterson said. “He did so many things for the Cleveland Browns and his own legacy there, so just based off that alone, to play against those guys, it was an honor to be there and play in that stadium and to know he was there watching. I’m sure he was thinking, ‘I’m going to check this kid out.’ It just felt good.”
One run impressed everyone in attendance: a 64-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. Peterson hit the gap outside the left tackle and wasn’t threatened for the first 12 yards. Then his skills took over.
“I remember [safety] Brodney Poole coming down, and I jump-cut to the left as he dove and ate grass,” Peterson said with a laugh. “I like to say that because he’s a friend.”
Peterson continued up the left sideline as cornerback Eric Wright lunged at him. Peterson stopped and, well, “I shoved him completely out of bounds,” he said. “I remember almost losing the ball with my left arm and turning to my left to hold on to the ball, and I see Sidney Rice block a defender. I remember a couple guys pursuing me into the end zone. I bent to the right as I was crossing the goal line, and I acted like I was going to throw the ball underhand to the crowd.”
Scoring his first touchdown
Peterson wasn’t known for his hands at Oklahoma, which is why it’s somewhat ironic that his first touchdown — in his first NFL game on Sept. 9, 2007, against Atlanta — came off a pass from Tarvaris Jackson. It was a pass that Peterson bobbled, but then he took off for 60 yards untouched into the end zone.
“Sidney Rice made a great block for me,” Peterson said. “I bobbled the ball three or four times, and I juggled the ball, and I ended up taking off to the end zone.”
Peterson has scored only six times off a pass, including once last season with Washington. He has 107 rushing touchdowns, fifth in NFL history. But his rookie-season TD stood out. It was the only pass he caught that day; he also rushed for 103 yards on 19 carries, but he had to wait until Week 3 for his first rushing score.
Peterson hasn’t kept every touchdown ball; he kept the first one.
“It’s a milestone, like getting to your 50th or 100th touchdown,” he said. “I had been dreaming about playing in the NFL my entire life, and to get that first NFL touchdown — not only that, it’s a pass play instead of a rushing touchdown. What were the odds of that happening? It was unique in a lot of ways.”