Dalvin Cook now Florida State's all-time leading rusher

Dalvin Cook, leaping on Freddie Stevenson after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter, now has a Florida State-record 4,166 career rushing yards and is tied for the school mark with 44 rushing touchdowns.
Dalvin Cook, leaping on Freddie Stevenson after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter, now has a Florida State-record 4,166 career rushing yards and is tied for the school mark with 44 rushing touchdowns.
Published Nov. 20, 2016

Now that Dalvin Cook has become the leading rusher in Florida State history, it's time to put his career in broader perspective.

Where does the 5-foot-11 Miami native rank among the Seminoles' all-time greats?

His place as the best running back FSU has ever seen was already secure before he broke Warrick Dunn's career rushing record (3,959) Saturday at Syracuse — on a 41-yard burst midway through the first quarter. Cook, a junior, needed less than three full seasons (36 games) to top what Dunn did in four (45 games). Cook finished with 225 yards in the No. 17 Seminoles' 45-14 win over Syracuse to boost his career mark to 4,166 yards. With his four touchdown runs, Cook also tied Greg Allen's school record (44).

Unless he returns for his senior year, Cook probably won't join quarterbacks Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke and Jameis Winston as Heisman Trophy winners. He won't get an award named after him, either, as Fred Biletnikoff did. Or win a national championship, like Derrick Brooks or Peter Warrick.

Cook might not belong in the same company as Ward or Winston, but he deserves a spot in the next tier, alongside Brooks, Marvin Jones, Deion Sanders and Ron Simmons.

The biggest knock on Cook might be his lack of a national title, for which he isn't to blame. FSU has lost seven in his three seasons. He scored 10 touchdowns in those defeats and only twice failed to record fewer than 127 total yards.

Cook blamed himself for the 59-20 beat-down against Oregon on Jan. 1, 2015, when he lost two second-half fumbles in the Rose Bowl. But the 'Noles wouldn't have been there in the first place if he hadn't rushed for a freshman-record 1,008 yards, blocked for Winston in the backfield and carried them to the ACC title. The aftermath of those fumbles fueled what came next — his school-record 1,691 rushing yards last year and a 2016 season worthy of All-America, if not Heisman, consideration.

"The best running back in college football," said Winston, now the Bucs' starting quarterback. "I saw that he was going to be special."

Special like Sanders, who might be the best historical comparison to Cook — a dynamic, two-time All-American who was too early for the title runs under Bobby Bowden.

Like Prime Time, Cook will be remembered for his explosive plays and his ability to turn any touch into a touchdown; his average score covers 28 yards. Mighty Clemson has given up only 13 rushes of more than 40 yards in the past two seasons. Cook has three of them, all for touchdowns.

But focusing on the big plays ignores the consistency that coach Jimbo Fisher said is even more impressive. Cook has rushed for at least 100 yards in 20 of his past 33 games and scored in 19 of his past 23. He's averaging more rushing yards in his career than anyone in ACC history.

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"I mean, how he does it over and over and over again," Fisher said. "We all say, 'Well, that's just Dalvin.' To me, that's a sign of greatness, is when you start to take that greatness for granted …"

You shouldn't. Consider how the sport's other stars were expected to fare in what looked like a golden year for running backs.

Heisman finalist Christian McCaffrey is averaging the fewest yards per rush of his Stanford career. Injuries limited LSU's Leonard Fournette to 803 yards through the Tigers' first 10 games. Royce Freeman had only three 100-yard games in the Ducks' 3-7 start.

Then there's Cook.

With defenses trying to stop him, he became a better receiver; no 'Nole ever accomplished what he did in the loss to North Carolina, when he had 100 yards rushing and receiving. He has 1,867 yards from scrimmage — second most of any Power Five conference player.

That shouldn't be taken for granted. It should make him one of FSU's all-time greats.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report. Contact Matt Baker at Follow @MBakerTBTimes.