Toby Gerhart will never supplant Adrian Peterson as the Vikings' lead back, but the 2005-06 Gatorade California Football Player of the Year did his part in helping Minnesota outlast Cam Newton and Carolina on Sunday, 24-21.
A second-year fullback out of Stanford, Gerhart, whose 9,662 career rushing yards at Norco High (Norco, Calif.) rank sixth in prep history, gained 27 yards on four carries during a 12-play Minnesota scoring drive in the third quarter that consumed 5:41 on the clock and tied the game at 21-21. The Vikings eventually won on a 31-yard field goal with 2:43 remaining in regulation.
Gerhart has now rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries this season in addition to catching four passes for 54 yards. His five carries against the Panthers represent a season high and helped Minnesota (2-6) end a two-game slide.
In high school, Gerhart set a California state record for career rushing yards and led Norco to the CIF Division 5 Southern Section title in 2005. Gerhart also played baseball and graduated as valedictorian of his high school class.
The 6-foot, 231-pounder went on to an All-American career at Stanford, leading the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing yards (1,871), rushing touchdowns (28), total touchdowns (28) and points scored (172) in his senior season of 2009, when he sparked the Cardinal to an 8-5 record and the program's first bowl berth in eight years.
Gerhart won the Doak Walker Award that season and was runner-up in Heisman Trophy voting. His 3,522 career rushing yards are the second most in Stanford history, behind Darrin Nelson’s 4,033 yards. Gerhart was the 51st overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft as a second-round pick of the Vikings.
Interestingly, Peterson lost out to Graham Harrell for 2003-04 Gatorade Texas Football Player of the Year honors during their high school senior seasons. Peterson rushed for 2,960 yards and 32 touchdowns on 252 carries at Palestine High (Texas).
In his senior season at Ennis High (Texas), Harrell set state records for single-season passing yards (4,825), touchdown passes (67) and pass completions (334) as well as Texas prep career standards for passing yards (12,532) and TD passes (167).
Harrell's single-season passing yards, career passing yards and single-season pass completions records stood until 2007-08 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year Garrett Gilbert broke them during back-to-back Class 4A Division II state championship seasons at Lake Travis High (Texas).
Harrell went on to set the NCAA all-time career record of 134 passing touchdowns, surpassing Colt Brennan in 2008, when he finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy race. Harrell currently serves as the practice squad quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.