TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Dalvin Cook’s date with history might take place in an unlikely yet appropriate venue.
Cook enters Florida State’s game at Syracuse needing just 19 yards to become the school’s career leading rusher, surpassing the record held by Warrick Dunn for 20 years.
So perhaps it’s appropriate that Cook will likely secure his place atop the FSU record books at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome, the same place where he first made his mark as a college football player.
It was Oct. 11, 2014, six games into Cook’s freshman year, when Cook ran for 122 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
It marked the first of 19 career 100-yard games for Cook, and the beginning of a changing of the guard in the Seminoles’ backfield.
“That was basically my coming-out game for Florida State,” Cook said.
And it almost never happened.
With senior Karlos Williams sidelined by an injury, the day initially belonged to sophomore reserve Mario Pender, who got off to a hot start by racking up 61 total yards and two touchdowns before suffering an injury late in the second quarter.
Pender’s injury gave way to Cook, and Cook has been running toward the record books ever since.
“The opportunity I had, it came sooner than I thought, with Mario going down and Karlos going down,” Cook said. “So Coach (Jimbo) Fisher threw me in there and gave me a lot of opportunities to go out there and make plays. And I just took advantage.”
Cook finished the year with 214 carries for 1,242 yards and 13 scores, along the way becoming the first freshman in school history top 1,000 rushing yards.
And he got even better as the season wore on, closing the campaign with performances of 144, 177 and 103 yards.
“Every time he got an opportunity, we went, ‘Dadgum, we’re going to have to give this ball to him a little more,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Given all he’s accomplished since – or, for that matter, before he arrived at FSU – it’s hard to imagine that Cook ever found himself third on a depth chart.
One of the best prep prospects from one of the country’s best high school football teams, Cook averaged 11.0 yards per carry as a senior and nearly topped 2,000 yards on his way to “Mr. Football” honors for the state of Florida.
But in an era where top recruits are sometimes seen as prima donnas, Fisher recalls that Cook got to Tallahassee with no demands or expectations.
“Dalvin, even coming in as highly-recruited as he was, was very quiet and humble,” Fisher said. “He never was an entitlement guy. That’s the one thing I remember about him. … He never thought anything was owed to him, done to him. He just came in, said ‘Yes sir, no sir,’ and went to work.”
No surprise then that Cook is approaching his record chase with a touch of humility.
Dunn, who played at FSU from 1993-96, is one of the most beloved figures in FSU football history. And, for a while, it seemed like his mark might stand forever. After Dunn left in 1996, no Seminoles did so much as rush for 1,000 yards until Devonta Freeman did in 2013.
Reaching Dunn’s career mark of 3,959 yards – nearly 200 ahead of previous No. 2 Greg Allen – seemed virtually impossible.
But, come Saturday, the impossible could become reality.
“We’ve had some great running backs that came through the program. And, obviously, Warrick’s at the top of the list,” Cook said. “For my name just to be next to his name, or be mentioned in the same sentence, it’s overwhelming.”