Dalvin Cook had just had one of the best individual performances in a Florida high school state championship game. But after Miami Central’s 52-7 rout of Armwood, few wanted to talk to the nation’s second-best running back recruit about his four touchdowns and 223 rushing yards.
Cook’s past was known to all who surrounded him on the Citrus Bowl field that December afternoon. The Miami native had just finished a career with the Rockets that yielded more than 4,200 yards rushing, 64 touchdowns and attention from the nation’s best college football programs — and led to the Tampa Bay Times crowning him its Blue Chip Player of the Year.
Now it was Cook’s future that was on everyone’s mind.
At the time, Cook was a Florida commit with a wandering eye. Cook admitted he had been visited by the likes of Mack Brown and Jimbo Fisher in the days leading up to his third straight state title game appearance. It wasn’t time yet, he said, to reveal the answer to the burning question.
He was ready, however, to all but end the process that had turned a boy with dreams into a man with a future.
“You keep hearing the same thing from all the coaches. Sometimes you just got to recognize what’s real and what’s fake,” Cook said. “Once I keep hearing the same things, I’m just going to shut it down. …It’s shut down today.”
A star in the making
Cook might just be a relatively new name on the ever expanding list of Miami football greats, but the 5-foot-11 running back has been on Larry Blustein’s radar for almost a decade.
Blustein, who has covered prep sports in the Miami area for nearly 40 years, has witnessed his fair share of football talent. When he first saw 10-year-old Cook play for the Scott Lake Vikings, Blustein knew the kid had a future in football.
“His football skills were good, but his speed was unbelievable. He would run away from kids early on,” Blustein recalled. “The only knock on him early on was that he was never really a trained running back. He just used his speed, he’d get in the open, and he was gone.”
Cook soon used that quickness to race into the Miami Central record books. The Rockets competed in the state championship game each of the three years Cook was on the varsity squad. Miami Central lost the title game to Armwood in 2011, but not before Cook — then a sophomore — returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.
Cook went on to have two touchdowns the following year in a title game win against Gainesville, then added four more to his championship total in the Rockets’ rematch with the Hawks on Dec. 14, 2013.
On New Year’s Eve, just a couple days before he was scheduled to play in the Under Armour All-American Game, Cook committed to Florida State, flipping on his nearly nine-month commitment to the Gators.
Cook said it was his relationship with the coaches that ultimately led him to pick the Seminoles. Those were bonds that 247Sports recruiting analyst Josh Newberg said were relatively fresh.
Newberg said Florida’s Eddie Gran, now the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, began recruiting Cook as a freshman. The Gators planted the seeds early, and eventually got a commitment from the highly touted recruit. But by August 2013, Newberg said, the
Seminoles began rebuilding a relationship with Cook.
His future had always seemed bright. But when Florida State running backs James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman — Cook’s former teammate at Miami Central — declared for the NFL draft in the days following the Seminoles’ national championship victory, Cook’s potential to make an immediate impact in Tallahassee grew.
Cook’s speed and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield are skills that Newberg said make him well-suited for the Seminoles’ system. Still, with running backs like St. Petersburg Catholic’s Ryan Green and Karlos Williams returning, Cook will have competition for playing time.
“The thing with Florida State is, they don’t really have the guy,” Newberg said. “They spread it around pretty well. As long as (Cook) stays healthy, I think he’ll see meaningful carries.”
A finalized future
There was something different about Cook’s demeanor as he stood on the turf at Tropicana Field at the conclusion of the Under Armour All-American Game on Jan. 2. Maybe the adrenaline was still pumping from his 76-yard performance — an Under Armour record — or from the 12-yard touchdown he capped with a celebratory Tomahawk Chop in the end zone.
But mostly, Cook just seemed free.
The recruiting process had consumed more than three years of his life. Still, it’s one of which Cook, an early enrollee at Florida State, won’t ever speak ill.
“When you become a Rocket, you sign up for things like this,” he said in December. “You become a man when you become a Rocket, and I became a man with this whole recruiting process.”
When Cook answered questions about his college plans in the weeks leading up to his final decision, he often did so with the straightest of faces, treating the conversation about the sport as if it were pure business.
But as he stood under the Tropicana Field lights that evening and talked about his impending — and long-awaited — move to Tallahassee, Cook couldn’t help but crack a smile.
“I made my decision,” he said. “I’m relieved, and I can just play football now.”
Kelly Parsons can be reached at email@example.com. Find her on Twitter @_kellyparsons.
About Dalvin Cook
High school: Miami Central
Position/size: Running back; 5-11/190
Stats: 4,268 rushing yards, 64 touchdowns in three seasons at Miami Central. He had 1,940 on 177 carries his senior season (11 yards per carry)
Key games: Dec. 14, 2013 — Scored four touchdowns, including an 80-yarder, and 223 rushing yards in Miami Central’s 52-7 win against Armwood in the Class 7A state championship game. …Nov. 30, 2013 — Ran for 244 yards and three touchdowns in Central’s 54-3 region final win against Palm Bay Heritage, the same game teammate Joseph Yearby went down with a season-ending injury. …Dec. 15, 2012 — Had 79 yards rushing, 47 receiving and two touchdowns in Miami Central’s 37-14 win against Gainesville in the 6A state championship game.
Did you know? Cook’s brother, Deandre Burnett, is a freshman guard on the University of Miami basketball team. …Cook earned South Florida Youth Football League Player of the Year honors when he was 14 years old.
Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald
State top 25
A composite list from 247Sports, compiling various rankings/ratings from major recruiting services.
1. Dalvin Cook, Miami Central RB 5-11/190 FSU
2. Bo Scarbrough, Bradenton IMG Academy ATH 6-2/225 Alabama
3. Sony Michel, Fort Lauderdale American Heritage RB 5-11/205 Georgia
4. Ermon Lane, Homestead WR 6-3/193 Undecided: FSU, Alabama, Miami
5. Chad Thomas, Miami Washington WDE 6-5/240 Miami
6. Travis Rudolph, West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman WR 6-1/185 FSU
7. Joseph Yearby, Miami Central RB 5-9/190 Miami
8. KC McDermott, Palm Beach Central OT 6-6/300 Miami
9. Travonte Valentine, Hialeah Champagnat DT 6-3/338 Undecided: LSU, Miami
10. Artavis Scott, East Lake WR 5-10/175 Clemson
11. Jacob Pugh, Tallahassee Godby OLB 6-4/221 FSU
12. Kain Daub, Jacksonville Sandalwood ILB 6-3/234 FSU
13. Johnnie Dixon, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer WR 5-10/187 Ohio State
14. Trevor Darling, Miami Central OT 6-4/327 Miami
15. Dillon Bates, Ponte Vedra OLB 6-3/220 Tennessee
16. Isaiah Wynn, Lakewood OL 6-2/272 Georgia
17. David Sharpe, Neptune Beach Fletcher OT 6-6/318 Florida
18. Treon Harris, Miami Washington ATH 5-11/180 FSU
19. Mason Cole, East Lake OL 6-4/285 Michigan
20. J.C. Jackson, Immokalee WR 5-10/180 Florida
21. Demarcus Christmas, Bradenton Manatee DT 6-4/287 FSU
22. Sean White, Fort Lauderdale University School PRO 6-2/204 Auburn
23. Keyon Brown, Wauchula Hardee WDE 6-3/230 Georgia
24. Anthony Moten, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas DT 6-4/292 Miami
25. Trey Marshall, Lake City Columbia S 5-11/196 FSU
Note: Top schools being considered are listed for undecided recruits.