CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Dalvin Cook launches his bid for the Heisman Trophy in few short weeks. But it was only a few years ago that he was not quite sure he would even be a full-fledged running back in college.
Growing up in Miami, Cook played both ways. “I used to play more defense than anything,” he told reporters during ACC Kickoff. “That’s how it was in high school, too.”
It was not until his sophomore year at Miami Central that he truly believed he could be a standout running back.
Devonta Freeman had left to play at Florida State. Cook and Joe Yearby became his successors, and eventually emerged as the top high school running back duo in the state. (Cook also played cornerback.) To get there, they took their coaching and advice from then-Central head coach Telly Lockette, now running backs coach at Oregon State.
“He pushed us to another level,” Cook said. “He played the position, so he challenged us on and off the field. Got us to watch film. We didn’t know what watching film was, we didn’t know what extra work was. We thought we could go off talent, so we’d just go out there and be making plays.
“He sat us down and said, ‘If you really work and you really watch film and see how you’re doing and making these cuts.’ We didn’t realize we were just making these cuts off our instincts. We picked up on it quick and we just ran with everything he told us.”
Cook ended up at Florida State and Yearby at Miami. As soon as Cook arrived in Tallahassee, he immersed himself in watching game tape and has not stopped, using the video to not only scout opponents but correct his own mistakes.
He also has watched other running backs, including Florida State career leading rusher Warrick Dunn, who amassed 3,959 yards from 1993-96. Cook needs 1,261 yards to surpass that mark this season, in just three years with the Seminoles.
“One thing I know, first guy won’t tackle him,” Cook said. “I take pride in that in my game, too. Warrick is one of those guys, he wasn’t big, either. Shifty on his feet. He just was elusive -- that’s the type of running back I like to watch make plays when it’s not there.”
Cook has a bit of that in him, too, saying he keeps his feet moving as much as possible to avoid the first tackler.
“I feel like I put enough time in my lower body in the weight room to break enough tackles,” Cook said. “Some of those guys probably think I’m undersized and probably think if they hit me I’m going to go down, but I keep my feet going and it so happens I break tackles.”
He has done that since he was 4, when he first started playing Pop Warner football for the Carol City Chiefs in South Florida. Cook still remembers his first touchdown, though that might be because he started running the wrong way when he got the ball.
“My mom was screaming,” Cook said. “I’m thinking she’s screaming because I’m about to score, but she’s screaming because I’m running the wrong way.”
Cook reversed himself and got in the end zone, anyway. He kept playing and excelling, leaving little doubt he is playing the position best suited for him.