There were plenty of highlights in terms of the 2012 NFL season. But perhaps none was more thrilling to watch than Minnesota Vikings' running back Adrian Peterson make a run (literally) at one of the fabled records in league history.
And despite 199 yards rushing in the regular-season finale against the Green Bay Packers (Peterson finished with 2,097 yards on the ground this past season), he fell eight yards short of tying that fabled mark. More significantly, Peterson was the catalyst for Minnesota's unexpected 10-6 record and playoff appearance in 2012 after the team managed only three wins the previous season.
Next season, Peterson will not only attempt to become the first player in the history of the league to rush for at least 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons, he will try to become the first player to do it twice, period.
Along with AP, there have been six other players to rush at least 2,000 yards in a single season, three of them who own space in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The first was Buffalo Bills' running back O.J. Simpson, who played during an era when the ground game was a lot more prominent. In any case, the Hall of Famer rolled up 2,003 yards rushing in 1973, when teams still only played 14 games. That itself is an amazing feat and for those who saw "The Juice" loose throughout his career, he remains one of the most spectacular players in league history.
The record holder for rushing yards in a season remains Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, who ran for 2,105 yards with the then-Los Angeles Rams in 1984 in just his second NFL campaign. It's an amazing accomplishment when you consider that Dickerson ran for an imposing 1,808 yards as a rookie in 1983. The star performer rushed for 100 or more yards in 21 of his first 32 regular-season games.
But let's get back to the topic at hand (as well as legs and feet). Baltimore Ravens' running back Jamal Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards in 2003, the second-best performance until Peterson this past year. Hall of Famer Barry Sanders totaled 2,053 yards in 1997 thanks to 14 straight games of 100-plus yards to close the season.
Rounding out the sensational six are Denver Broncos' runner Terrell Davis, who rushed for 2,008 yards in 1998 in a season in which he was named league MVP while helping his team win a second straight Super Bowl title. Last but not least is Tennessee's Chris Johnson, who rolled up 2,006 yards in 2009.
There you have it. Seven magnificent performances that are etched in many football fans' memories. Now Peterson has a chance to enter unchartered territory with an unprecedented follow-up performance.
What are the odds for the Vikings' star? Hard to tell, but what were the odds we would have seen much of Peterson at all last season after being helped off the field in Washington in Week 16 of 2011 with a knee injury. The human spirit remains undefeated.
So will he or won't he? And just how realistic are his chances? It will make for a fascinating watch in 2013.
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. A former NFL research coordinator for ESPN, he is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.