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Stan Becton | NCAA.com | September 22, 2022

Brian Westbrook vs. Adrian Peterson: Comparing the college careers of FCS legends

Christian Watson: 2022 NFL Draft prospect's top FCS playoff highlights

The FCS (or I-AA) has had legendary football players coming in and out of the subdivision since its origins in 1978. Most notably at the running back position, two all-time legends come to mind thanks to their accomplishments: Villanova's Brian Westbrook and Georgia Southern's Adrian Peterson.

Legendary FCS athletes. Both all-time greats. But who’s the better FCS legend between Brian Westbrook and Adrian Peterson? 

To answer that question, we’ll be taking a look at a side-by-side breakdown of the collegiate careers of Westbrook and Peterson from the statistics to the accolades.

Keep in mind, this is a comparison of FCS careers ONLY, so NFL and professional accomplishments do not factor in. Professionally, Villanova's Westbrook starred for the Philadelphia Eagles. Meanwhile, Georgia Southern's Peterson played for the Chicago Bears — rivaling his namesake and Oklahoma product Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings — for most of his professional career.

That said, let’s get into the comparison.

Vitals

Brian Westbrook Vitals Adrian Peterson
Villanova School Georgia Southern
5'8'' Height 5'10''
200 pounds Weight 214 pounds
1997-2001 Years Active 1998-2001

When it comes to measurables, Adrian Peterson was a bigger running back than Brian Westbrook, listed at two inches taller and 14 pounds heavier. Westbrook played five seasons at Villanova, missing all of 1999 with a knee injury. In 2000, Peterson missed the final two regular-season games with an injury.

Wins and Losses

Brian WestBRook Stats Adrian Peterson
46 Games Played 59
31 Wins 52
1-1 Postseason Record 13-2

Brian Westbrook played in 13 fewer games than Adrian Peterson, as Georgia Southern played in more than a regular season's worth of postseason games. Peterson and the Eagles advanced to the postseason in all of his years in the backfield. Westbrook played in the postseason once.

FCS CHAMPIONSHIP: How the FCS playoffs work | Schools with most titles | Full championship history

Career Stats

Brian Westbrook

Here are Brian Westbrook’s career rushing stats in college (regular season).

YEAR GAMES YarDs YD/GM TD
1997 11 429 39.0 3
1998 11 1,046 95.1 15
2000 11 1,220 110.9 15
2001 11 1,603 145.7 22
Career 44 4,298 97.7 55

Here are Brian Westbrook’s career all-purpose stats in college (regular season).

YEAR GAMES Rush YDs Rush TDs Rec YDS REC TDs KOR YDS KOR TDS PR YDS Tot Yds
1997 11 429 3 85 4 157 0 124 671
1998 11 1,046 15 1,114 15 644 1 192 3,026
2000 11 1,220 15 724 5 1,048 2 0 2,992
2001 11 1,603 22 658 6 440 1 90 2,823
Career 44 4,298 55 2,582 30 2,289 4 343 9,512

Adrian Peterson

Here are Adrian Peterson's regular season career stats in college.

YEAR GAMES Carries Rush/G YARDS YD/GM YD/CAR TD
1998 11 258 23.5 1,932 175.6 7.5 25
1999 11 248 22.5 1,807 164.3 7.3 28
2000 9 230 20.9 1,361 151.2 5.9 13
2001 11 261 23.7 1,459 132.6 5.6 18
Career 42 997 22.7 6,559 156.2 6.6 84

Here are Adrian Peterson's postseason career stats in college.

YEAR GAMES Carries Rush/G YARDS YD/GM YD/CAR TD
1998 4 107 26.8 674 168.5 6.3 9
1999 4 105 26.3 897 224.3 8.5 12
2000 4 108 27.0 695 173.8 6.4 6
2001 3 61 20.3 336 112.0 5.5 3
Career 15 381 25.4 2602 173.5 6.8 30

Both Brian Westbrook and Adrian Peterson were dominant over their college careers. Westbrook filled the stat sheet in every area, accumulating yards on the ground, in the air and in the return game. After becoming the lead back as a sophomore, Westbrook's career took off.

Peterson dominated from his first day on campus, bulldozing his way in a triple-option rushing attack. Take a look at Peterson's 15 postseason games, and you'll see he ran for more yards and touchdowns than some running backs rush for in their careers.

Best Season

Brian Westbrook

Any of Brian Westbrook's final three active seasons could be chosen as his best season. Westbrook became the first and only player in the history of college football at any level with 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards in one season during his sophomore year and he gained 1,000 rushing and 1,000 kickoff return yards during his fourth year. However, Westbrook's best season came in 2001, his final season.

In 2001, Brian Westbrook ran for the most rushing yards and touchdowns of his career. While Westbrook's statistical numbers in other categories weren't as high, he still accumulated 1,200-plus yards not on the ground. Westbrook's individual success led to team success as Villanova finished as A-10 co-champions in 2001. On a national scale, Westbrook took home the 2001 Walter Payton Award as the FCS's best offensive player.

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson started his career as a freshman by rushing for the most yards of his career. However, Peterson's Georgia Southern team lost in the FCS Championship game. 1998 can't be Peterson's best season without a ring to back it up.

Peterson did win a national title as a sophomore and junior in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Between the two seasons, 1999 gets the nod as Peterson's best season since he played every game, won the Walter Payton Award — he finished as a top-three vote getter in every season — and dominated the playoffs.

Peterson ran for 2,704 yards and 40 touchdowns in 1999 throughout the regular and postseason. Peterson set numerous records in 1999, highlighted by his championship-game record 274 rushing yards in Georgia Southern's national championship win.

AWARDS: Walter Payton Award history | Buck Buchanan Award history | Jerry Rice Award history

Best game

Brian Westbrook

When picking Brian Westbrook's best game from his storied career, there are a lot of options to choose from. Westbrook, a versatile athlete, gained 458 all-purpose yards — the most of his career — in a loss to Delaware in 2000. He caught 15 passes for 261 yards — as a running back! — against Northeastern in 1998. One can even look to Westbrook's performance against FBS foe Pittsburgh as his best game as he gained 428 all-purpose yards, scoring a touchdown rushing, receiving and returning. Yet, none of these go down as Westbrook's best game.

Brian Westbrook's best game came in 2001 against James Madison. Westbrook gained 405 all-purpose yards (228 rushing, 42 receiving and 135 return yards) and scored five rushing touchdowns. However, it's Westbrook's performance in the clutch that puts this game above the rest.

Trailing 44-38 in double overtime, Villanova was faced with a fourth down and six at James Madison's 6-yard line. That's when Westbrook made an amazing diving catch for five yards to pick up the first down and keep Villanova's drive alive at James Madison's 1-yard line. Westbrook then dove in the end zone for a 1-yard score to give the Wildcats the game winning touchdown in a 45-44 double-overtime classic.

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson has multiple games with 200-plus rushing yards and multiple games with three-plus touchdowns. But, which game of Adrian Peterson's career is the best?

It's none other than his 1999 FCS quarterfinal performance against UMass. This game gets the nod over Peterson's 1999 FCS championship performance where he rushed for three touchdowns and a game-record 247 yards against a Youngstown State defense that only allowed 166 rushing yards. 

Why?

Well, in the quarterfinals, Peterson turned out a Jordan-esque flu-game level performance. While battling a severe chest cold, Peterson ran for a school-record 333 yards on 32 carries and a then-school record five touchdowns. Peterson scored three 25-yard touchdown runs, adding in a three-yard and nine-yard run to his total. Peterson was the only Eagle to find the end zone in the quarterfinals, and Georgia Southern needed those touchdowns, winning 38-21.

FCS-OVER-FBS UPSET HISTORY: All-time victories, upsets, wins vs. ranked teams 

Records set

Brian Westbrook and Adrian Peterson reset the record books during their overlapping careers. Here's a look at records currently held by both as Westbrook and Peterson have lost a few records since each moved on from the FCS.

Brian Westbrook

College football records

  • The only player to gain over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in a season (1998)

DI football records

  • 1st in all-purpose yards gained in a career: 9,512 yards
  • 1st in points scored in a career: 544 points
  • 1st in touchdowns scored in a career: 89 touchdowns

FCS records

  • 1st (2nd & 3rd) in all-purpose yards gained in a season: 3,026 (2,992 & 2,823) yards
  • 1st (2nd & 3rd) in all-purpose yards gained in a season per game: 275.1 (272.0 & 256.6) yards per game
  • 1st in all-purpose yards gained in a career per game: 216.2 yards per game
  • 1st in passes caught by a running back in a season: 89 catches
  • 2nd in points scored in a season per game: 16.0 points per game
  • 3rd in single-game all-purpose yards: 458 yards
  • 3rd in career points per game: 12.36 points per game
  • 4th in points scored in a season: 176 points

Adrian Peterson

College football records

  • 1st in consecutive 100-yard rushing games: 36 games

DI football records

  • 1st in career rushing yards gained: 6,559 yards
  • 1st in 100-yard rushing games: 40 games
  • Tied for 1st in 100-yard rushing games by a freshman: 11 games

FCS records

  • 1st in career rushing yards per game: 156.2 yards
  • 1st in rushing yards gained by a freshman in a season: 1,932 yards
  • 1st in rushing yards gained by a freshman in a season per game: 175.6 yards per game
  • 1st in rushing yards in a playoff run: 897 yards
  • 1st in rushing touchdowns in a playoff run: 12 touchdowns
  • 1st in championship-game rushing yards: 247 yards
  • Tied for 1st in career rushing touchdowns: 84 touchdowns
  • Tied for 1st in seasons gaining 1,000 rushing yards: 4 seasons
  • 2nd in career rushing yards per game: 156.2 yards per game
  • 2nd in career points scored: 524 points
  • 2nd in career points scored per game: 12.48 points per game
  • Tied for 3rd in points scored in a season per game: 15.8
  • 5th in points scored in a season: 174 points

FCS HISTORY: The 9 all-time winningest FCS programs | 7 of the most unbreakable FCS records

Awards won

Here are the awards won by Brian Westbrook and Adrian Peterson during their college careers.

Brian Westbrook

Here are the awards and honors Westbrook won in college:

  • 3x First Team All-American (1998, 2000-2001)
  • 3x First Team All-A-10 (1998, 2000-2001)
  • 2x A10 Offensive Player of the Year (2000-2001)
  • 2x ECAC Offensive Player of the Year (2000-2001)
  • Walter Payton Award (2001)
  • Villanova Varsity Club Hall of Fame (2016)

Adrian Peterson

Here are the awards and honors Peterson won in college:

  • 3x First Team AP All-American (1998-1999, 2001)
  • 4x First Team AFCA All-American (1998-2001)
  • 4x First Team All-SoCon (1998-2001)
  • 2x SoCon Offensive Player of the Year (1998, 2001)
  • SoCon Freshman of the Year (1998)
  • Walter Payton Award (1999)
    • First sophomore to ever win the award
  • SoCon Hall of Fame (2009)
  • College Football Hall of Fame (2017)

🐐: We picked the top-5 players all-time for Villanova football

Championships won

Brian Westbrook won the 1997 A-10 title twice, bookending his Villanova career. Adrian Peterson won the SoCon title in all of his years at Georgia Southern.

Westbrook advanced to the FCS quarterfinals once in his career. Peterson finished his career with a 2-1 FCS Championship game record, winning consecutive titles in 1999 and 2000.

Who's better: Brian Westbrook or Adrian Peterson?

Now you’ve seen how all-time FCS great running backs Brian Westbrook and Adrian Peterson stack up and compare. The stats, the facts and the data has been presented and each has a strong case for being better than the other.

So, who’s better all-time between Brian Westbrook and Adrian Peterson?

That’s for you to decide.

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