Phil Loadholt is hoping he won’t be coming home to Fountain just yet. He’s also hoping when he does he’ll be returning as a part of history.
The Fountain-Fort Carson graduate and Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle will try to open holes to help running back Adrian Peterson set the NFL’s single-season rushing record.
Peterson, less than a year removed from tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, is 208 yards away from breaking Eric Dickerson’s league record of 2,105 yards, set in 1984 with the then-Los Angeles Rams. Peterson is also only 102 yards away from breaking the 2,000-yard, single-season mark. It's a feat six players in NFL history have achieved.
Bigger than Peterson’s attempt at the record, however, is the chance for the Vikings to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. A win at home against NFC North rival Green Bay on Sunday and Minnesota earns a trip to the postseason.
“The record would be fine, but the playoffs are the main goal as a team,” Loadholt said from Minnesota on Thursday.
While so many people in these parts would point to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning as a runaway winner for comeback player of the year, Loadholt and plenty of Vikings fans would beg to differ.
Peterson is less than 13 months removed from suffering a torn ACL – an injury that usually takes 12 months to recover from. The Vikings running back vowed to be back by Week 1 of the following NFL season. Players like Loadholt saw firsthand that Peterson would make good on his promise.
“Even in (organized team activities), when he was doing drills and running around, you could see him making cuts,” Loadholt said. “He has always been somebody who can come back from anything. Just to see it in OTAs, see him make full cuts, it was pretty amazing to see that.”
The 2004 F-FC grad, who spends the majority of the offseason with his parents in Fountain, is well aware of what Manning has done. He just doesn’t know if it’s comparable to Peterson’s accomplishments.
“To me, no slight to what (Manning’s) done,” Loadholt said. “He’s done a great job. But obviously, for me, with Adrian, (an ACL injury) at the running back position ... it’s pretty amazing what he’s done out here, as well.”
Not surprisingly, Peterson was named to the Pro Bowl this week. He was shocked none of his linemen are joining him.
“... I’m disappointed that none of the guys up front were chosen,” Peterson told the Vikings website. “Those guys have contributed so much to the team’s success and to my success; they are all Pro Bowlers to me.”
Peterson is averaging 6.0 yards per carry and has tied Barry Sanders with seven runs of at least 50 yards in a season. He’s gone over the 200-yard mark twice, including once against the Packers. For your average back, 208 is a long way. But Peterson isn’t your average back.
“He’s proven he can get that number,” Loadholt said. “Week in, week out, we expect to get the victory, and with the record being there, 208 is not out of our reach at all.”
If Peterson can break Dickerson’s record and the Vikings can reach the playoffs, the Trojans alumnus can puff out his massive 6-foot-8, 343-pound frame just a bit more.
“I take lot of pride in that,” Loadholt said. “To be part of that, with all the great backs in the history of the league, it would be special to everyone on this offensive line. Hopefully we can get that done this week.”
If so, Loadholt won't mind delaying his return to Fountain at least one more week.