ST. LOUIS (AP) Herschel Walker says he predicted St. Louis Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley would be a star long before he was tearing up NFL defenses.
Watching the Rams practice Tuesday, Walker judged Gurley to be a bit of a throwback in an age of specialization.
''If you watch the way he runs, watch the work habits, there's a good kid who knows what he's doing,'' said Walker, in St. Louis to help promote a mixed martial arts event. ''Todd can play every down if he has to; he can play third down, he can line up in the slot.''
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Gurley said it was ''pretty cool'' meeting the 53-year-old Walker, who said he's put on just 2 pounds since retiring from the NFL in 1997.
''He just told us `Good job and keep it up,''' Gurley said. ''Obviously, I went to the same school. He's been watching and keeping tabs on me.''
The Rams (4-3) play at Minnesota (5-2) this week and Walker thought Gurley compared favorably with Adrian Peterson, one of the best overall running backs in the NFL. Watching Gurley hurdle tacklers reminded Walker of Hall of Famer Gale Sayers.
''We both kind of run hard and don't like to go down,'' Gurley said. ''You can definitely say he's the Godfather, and I'm the Godson.''
St. Louis selected Gurley with the 10th overall pick even though he was rehabbing from left knee surgery. So far, it's been a spectacular success story.
Walker said the Rams are doing things correctly, emphasizing the run.
''If you want to win the Super Bowl, you can get there by passing the ball, but if you want to win you'd better be able to run the ball a little it,'' Walker said. ''You know how great it is to have an offensive line that can blow off the ball and knock someone right in the mouth and have a running back getting those extra yards.
''I think Todd is giving those guys confidence that they've got a horse behind them,'' he said.
Gurley is the first player in NFL history to rush for 125 yards or more in his first four starts. His 566 rushing yards are the most in a player's first four starts in the Super Bowl era.
He can hurdle tacklers, and he can outrun them, too. He was untouched on a 71-yard scoring run up the middle for the Rams' first touchdown in Sunday's 27-6 victory over the 49ers, and though safety Eric Reid had the angle, Gurley pulled away.
''It was the guys up front and the tight ends, the receivers,'' Gurley said. ''I just do my job, look at my keys, and run. A run like that, it was wide open.''
Walker was a more physical player, willing to bull for the extra yards, and Rams coach Jeff Fisher joked, ''I'm really lucky I never had to tackle him.''
Walker has taken the same approach to his brief mixed martial arts career and, although he hasn't fought in a while, he hasn't retired.
''I've told everyone I'll do one more fight,'' Walker said. ''I'm still working out like I've always been. They're still telling me I can do it so I'm still doing it.''
Beside the admiration of Walker, Gurley has the respect of his teammates.
''He's been the best football player on the field and he comes to work every day,'' defensive end William Hayes said. ''That's one thing you don't see a lot of rookies do.''
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