Ladell Betts grew up in Blue Springs, Mo., idolizing the likes of Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Thurman Thomas--all backs who racked up 1,000-yard seasons regularly.
Betts has been on a stellar pace of his own since assuming the role of feature back in the Redskins' offense after Clinton Portis was placed on injured reserve.
This Sunday, he has a chance to crack the 1,000-yard barrier against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. The St. Louis Rams have the NFL's second-worst run defense--they allow an average of 147.8 rushing yards per game.
Betts needs just 67 yards to hit 1,000 yards this season. He has compiled 933 yards on 196 carries, an impressive 4.8 yards-per-carry. His previous season-high was 371 rushing yards on 98 carries in 2004.
With two games left, it seems a virtual certainty that Betts will reach the 1,000-yard mark.
"It's something that most running backs are judged by nowadays, as far as getting 1,000 yards," Betts said. "It means a lot to get 1,000 yards the first time in my career. It means a lot to the guys up front blocking for me. Our goal was to have a 1,000-yard rusher, no matter who it was."
Betts also has a chance to tie a Redskins franchise record if he rushes for 100-plus yards against the Rams.
It would be the fifth consecutive game that he would have rushed for 100 or more yards, which would tie him with Rob Goode and Portis. Goode rushed for five consecutive 100-yard games in 1951 and Portis did it last season.
Betts rushed for 104 yards against the Carolina Panthers, then followed that up with 155 yards against the Atlanta Falcons, 171 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles and 119 yards against the New Orleans Saints.
That's 549 yards in four games. That translates to 2,196 yards over the course of a 16-game season.
Sanders, Smith and Thomas would be jealous of that total--it would set a single-season NFL record.
"It's pretty unbelievable, if you sit back and look at it," Betts said on Wednesday. "But guys are opening up holes for me. I'm hitting the holes hard and we're racking up yards at big chunks at a time."
Betts, who signed a long-term contract extension on Dec. 8 to stay with the club, has been a good fit for Joe Gibbs' brand of smash-mouth football. The team started to re-emphasize the ground game midseason and it is paying off for Betts.
"The big picture was, we were just trying to get back to what we were doing last year and that was hitting people," he said. "We want to be a physical ball club and I think that's something we got away from early in the season. It's not that we softened up, but we wanted to get back to controlling the line of scrimmage. I think we've done that."