TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Just a few days after parting ways with the greatest running back in their franchise’s history, the Minnesota Vikings said hello to one of the greatest running backs in Florida State history.
The Vikings traded up to select Florida State’s Dalvin Cook early in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday, and while Cook won’t be expected to totally fill Adrian Peterson’s shoes from Day 1, he’s nevertheless thrilled to follow in Peterson’s footsteps.
“Growing up watching Adrian Peterson … it was something special,” said Cook, who will wear jersey No. 33 in Minnesota. “To go to the team that he played for is still unreal. Adrian Peterson is a great back. I’m just going to come in and work hard to be the best Dalvin I can be.”
That’s just fine with the Vikings, who considered Cook to be one of the two best running backs available in the draft, and couldn’t believe their fortune when he was still on the board after Thursday’s first round.
Minnesota didn’t have a first-round draft choice after trading it away last season and used its first pick of the draft to select Cook.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman chatted on the phone with Cook for about 45 minutes on Friday morning, then went to run the idea of drafting him by offensive coordinator Put Shurmur.
The look on Shurmur’s face served as his stamp of approval.
“His mouth kind of dropped,” Spielman said.
Florida State fans are used to that reaction.
Cook rewrote the record books during his three years in Tallahassee, along the way earning a reputation as the most explosive player in college football.
That explosiveness – Cook had 48 runs of 20-plus yards at FSU – is what enticed the Vikings.
“When you see him running away from defensive players that have a lot of speed and are at that talent level, that kind of tells you what type of football player he is,” Spielman said. “Not only is he an explosive playmaker with the ball in his hands, as a running back, he has great balance, great vision.”
Peterson may be gone, but Cook will have to assert himself from a crowded backfield to see the field this season.
The Vikings still have Jerick McKinnon on the roster, and they signed former Raiders standout Latavius Murray in the offseason.
McKinnon received an increased workload after Peterson suffered a knee injury last year, and Murray is just a year removed from a 1,000-yard season with the Raiders.
Cook, though, is no stranger to competition. He arrived at Florida State in 2014 and began his career behind more experienced players on the depth chart.
But after injuries to some of those players, Cook rose to the occasion, seized the Seminoles’ starting job late in the season and never let go.
It’s a script Cook can follow in Minnesota.
“I’m just going to come in and work my tail off and provide to a great backfield that we’re going to have,” he said. “You know, just come in to be a contributor, wherever I fit in at. I’m going to take my role and I’m going to represent it 100 percent.”
Cook is also looking forward to reuniting with a pair of friends on the Minnesota roster.
Former FSU cornerback Xavier Rhodes and former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater are each in Minnesota, and both hail from Cook’s hometown of Miami.
“Everybody knows that ‘Xay’ and Teddy are good people,” Cook said. “It’s good to be around those guys, learn from those guys and learn how to be a pro.”
Those relationships with Rhodes and Bridgewater helped Spielman feel more comfortable with Cook, too.
A few days before the draft, Sports Illustrated published a story that detailed how a rogue “runner” – a liason between athletes and agents – had been attempting to sabotage Cook by talking him down in NFL circles.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and others close to Cook defended his character, and Cook said he didn’t pay any mind to it.
Whether that had anything to do with Cook’s draft position is hard to say – two other running backs went in the first round, but it’s otherwise common for teams to wait and draft running backs in later rounds.
Spielman, however, picked Cook without reservation and with a smile on his face.
“He knows some very quality people up here,” Spielman said. “And I think with our locker room, with the support staff we have in place here, I think this kid has really, really matured over the last couple of years, and we have no concerns at all about him being a Minnesota Viking.”