Wetmore: Patterson sets return record, shows potential for greatness
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MINNEAPOLIS - With relatively few bright spots to latch onto in the Vikings' 2013 season, rookie Cordarrelle Patterson stood out. In the second half of 2013, the 22-year-old evolved from veritable building block to burgeoning superstar.
The electric return man also separated himself as a receiver -- displaying an uncommon ability to create yards after the catch -- and in the backfield. Patterson, in the first quarter of the season finale, bolted for a 50-yard run, his third rushing touchdown of the season. That scamper is the longest touchdown run for a Vikings receiver in team history and made him the first player in NFL history with a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown, a 75-yard touchdown catch and a 50-yard touchdown run in the same season, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
He also eclipsed the Vikings' previous high-water mark for return yards in a season; he finished with 1,393. Patterson's nine touchdowns on the season trailed Adrian Peterson (11) for the Vikings lead.
"Unique kid," Peterson said of Patterson. "Very talented, obviously. He's going to be a big-time player in this league for a long time."
When the Vikings traded to get back into the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, selecting Patterson was viewed as a way to replace the production of Percy Harvin, a comparison Patterson has side-stepped this season.
Peterson didn't avoid pointing out the similarities Sunday, however.
"Man, he's grown on me strong. He's an incredible athlete," Peterson said. "He's right there on Percy Harvin's heels, in my opinion. For being a taller back -- Percy's just kind of dynamic because he's a smaller guy, stronger. But this kid right here, he's real good. He's the real deal."
Patterson's receiving touchdown in the fourth quarter proved to be the winning score for Minnesota. When teams started kicking away from him this season, he became increasingly more involved in the game's other aspects. His six touchdowns in the final five games have convinced some observers that the raw yet talented returner out of Tennessee was under-used early this season.
"You really can't think about it like that," Patterson said. "Coach Musgrave is doing a good job putting me in the offense -- no matter if it was late in the season. So I really can't say what I would have done if it would have been that way the whole season."
Patterson gave viewers a glimpse of his potential this season and he said that to continue to improve, he knows he needs to stay out of trouble this offseason.
"The biggest priority [this offseason] is to do the right thing, don't get in trouble. A lot of times, some guys, they get into trouble sometimes," Patterson said. "I just like to keep my head clean, just make sure I keep hanging with Greg [Jennings], [Jarius] Wright, Jerome Simpson - hanging with those guys and I'm really going to keep my head clean."