Adrian Peterson: Standing Ovation Was a "Special Moment"
The peak volume level at U.S. Bank Stadium on Thursday night didn't occur when Dalvin Cook found the end zone late in the first half, or on any of the important third downs where the crowd is prompted to go crazy in search of extra decibels of noise.
No, the loudest the crowd got all night came when an opposing player was shown on the jumbotron.
That player was Adrian Peterson, and the scoreboard had just let the nearly 67,000 fans in attendance know that the Vikings legend had moved into sixth all-time on the NFL career rushing list, passing LaDainian Tomlinson and Jerome Bettis.
Peterson looked out to the crowd from the sideline, unable to contain a beaming smile, and waved to express gratitude for the standing ovation. That acknowledgement only made the crowd's roars louder, as they rained down their appreciation on the running back who meant so much to the Vikings franchise for ten years.
"Just coming back and seeing the love that they still have for me and they showed, man, it felt good," Peterson said. "It was definitely a great home welcome. They welcomed me with open arms and just showed the love that they have and they had for over a decade. So it was a special moment. I had to hold tears back, to be honest with you."
This was Peterson's first time playing a leading role against the team that drafted him, as he returned in 2017 with the Saints but only received six carries. The man who played 123 games in a Vikings uniform, racking up nearly 14,000 yards from scrimmage and over 100 touchdowns, found it difficult not to hum along to the Vikings' famous post-score song, even as he stood on the opposing sideline.
"There was a couple times throughout the game where I kind of caught myself singing the Skol song or whistling it," Peterson said. "I catch myself because it's natural instincts. But just, I was here for a decade and so some things just kind of triggered."
On the field, Peterson gave the Minnesota crowd a vintage performance, eliciting a few oohs and ahhs from the stands as he went over 100 yards from scrimmage on just 16 touches. As always, Peterson ran hard, and he even busted out not one but two of his patented jump cuts on a ridiculous first down conversion. Even at 34 years old, it was a play perhaps no other running back in the league would have the vision and ability to pull off.
During and after the game, Peterson shared moments with several Vikings players, both veterans he once shared a locker room with and young guys that came around after he left. On the 29-yard run that vaulted him over Tomlinson and Bettis on the all-time rushing leaderboard, Peterson broke through several arm tackles and burst up the right sideline, where he stiff-armed Harrison Smith before the safety pushed him out of bounds.
After the play, Smith and Peterson exchanged words, and the former teammates from 2012 through 2015 walked away grinning.
Peterson embraced a number of Vikings players after the game, including young running backs Cook and Alexander Mattison. Though neither player shared a jersey with the veteran Peterson, they both expressed admiration for who he is.
"Means a lot," said Cook of their postgame chat. "A guy like that who is still going and still got it in him. I love sharing the field with him. This is my second time [meeting him] and it’s always good, because that was one of the guys I watched growing up."
Peterson, ever the optimist, expressed his desire to keep playing for "at least three to four more years." But if time catches up to him and this was his last game in Minnesota, the all-time great got the sendoff he deserved.