Dalvin Cook needed just 82 yards last year to join an illustrious group of running backs that have surpassed 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a single season.
But family came first.
On his way to a team workout approaching a meaningless Week 17 matchup with the Detriot Lions, the Minnesota Vikings running back answered a FaceTime call from his grandma that changed his life, four days after Christmas, The Athletic’s Chad Graff reported.
Dalvin’s dad, James, wasn’t breathing, and his heart had stopped pumping. CPR proved futile. All Dalvin could do was console his grandma while waiting for an ambulance. Dalvin watched as medics arrived at his childhood Florida home and pronounced James Cook dead. He was 46.
Cook questioned whether he should play that Sunday and reach his goal of 2,000 yards of offense. The thought crossed him that James would’ve wanted that. But after considering his grieving grandma and siblings, Cook booked a flight to Miami the next day.
In an exclusive feature story written by Graff, Cook detailed how he’s handled the past year and his newfound motivation.
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‘Everything I’ve Got, It’s Going to be For Him’
James and Dalvin’s mother had seven children, but Dalvin felt he had a “special connection” to his dad, who was his biggest mentor, fan and critic, Graff wrote.
Cook was the only of James’ children to join him for early-morning fishing expeditions. The two old-school cars and pit bulls. James went to almost every one of Dalvin’s games and prodded his song to get the most out of him.
On the rare times he couldn’t go, Dalvin would call him on the bus headed to games. James told him during those calls that the other team was bigger. They were probably faster than Dalvin, too. Dalvin probably couldn’t hang with the guys on the other squad. He was going to get crushed.
“Just getting me mad, getting me going,” Dalvin said. “It was just fun, man.”
Each offseason, Cook rented a house in Miami and would go fishing before morning workouts. He was wary of going this past spring — worried fishing would bring back difficult memories of his dad. His siblings joined him this spring. Cook taught them how to cast, just how James had taught him in years past.
“They actually enjoy it now,” Cook said.
Cook bought his grandma a new home with the signing bonus he received after inking a $63 million contract extension with the Vikings in 2020.
Having hit his payday and taking care of his family, his newest motivation has pivoted to making his dad proud.
“I’ve just been feeling different,” Cook said, per Graff. “I feel like I’ve got a different purpose when I’m playing football. When I say I’m dedicating the season to him, those reps when I’m tired, I’ve got something bigger to think about. It always used to be, ‘I’m trying to feed my family and win games.’ But (now) I’ve got some big things to think about.
“Like, ‘Pops would want me to score right here. Don’t be tired.’ This whole season is definitely for him because there’s so much more that he’d want me to accomplish in my career. I’m just getting started. There’s still so much more that I can accomplish, and I’m going to go do it because I know that’s what my dad would want. Everything I’ve got, it’s going to be for him.”
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Cook Named 20th Best Player in the NFL Top 100
Since entering the NFL in 2017, Cook has climbed the ranks and asserted himself as one of the best running backs in the league.
After putting together his second consecutive Pro Bowl season a year ago, Cook was ranked No. 20 on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2021, an annual list voted on by players.
He posted career highs of 1,557 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns in just 14 games. Cook added 44 receptions for 361 yards and a touchdown. His 1,918 yards from scrimmage ranked second in the NFL. It was the second-most single-season yards in franchise history, behind only Adrian Peterson’s 2,314 combined yards of offense in 2012.
Cook is currently eighth all-time in rushing yards with 3,661 in his career. He’s fifth in rushing touchdowns with 33. Only Adrian Peterson (97), Chuck Foreman (52), Bill Brown (52) and Ted Brown (40) are ahead of Cook in franchise history.