At Dalvin Cook’s football camp on Sunday, about 200 kids were wearing Cook jerseys with No. 4 on the back. At one point, the campers each held up four fingers and chanted, “four, four, four.”
“Get use to it,” the Vikings star running back said later. “There’s going to be a lot of that in the stands this year.”
Cook is excited about his switch to jersey No. 4, which he wore at Miami Central High School and Florida State, from 33, the number he wore during his first five seasons with Minnesota. And he’s ready to report to training camp on Tuesday and take the field for the first full-squad practice on Wednesday under first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell.
“I’m very fired up,” Cook told the Pioneer Press following the conclusion of his Celebrity Sports Academy camp on Saturday and Sunday at East Ridge High School in Woodbury. “There’s a new energy in the building. We’re just ready to show everybody what we’re putting in, and go out and compete. … I’m just loving what’s going on in the building, loving our team chemistry, and I feel like we’ve got something special going on.”
O’Connell took over for Mike Zimmer, who was fired after eight seasons. Zimmer had a run-first mentality while O’Connell is expected to open up the offense more.
That could mean fewer carries this season for Cook. But he’s not concerned about that.
“Whenever my number is called, I’m going to make the best of my opportunity,” he said. “Whatever it is, I just want to win at this point.”
The Vikings finished 7-9 in 2020 with Cook rushing for 1,557 yards while missing three games, then 8-9 last season with Cook gaining 1,159 yards while sitting out four games. Cook has made three straight Pro Bowls, but he perhaps is not getting as much love lately as he would like.
In Madden NFL 23 running back ratings, Cook came in fifth behind Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey and Jonathan Taylor. He also was ranked fifth by Pro Football Focus, trailing Taylor, Chubb, Henry and McCaffrey.
“He’s mad about (some rankings),” said Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who helped out at Cook’s camp and thrilled attendees by doing the “Griddy.” “He might not say it, but I know he feels some type of way about it.”
So is Cook indeed perturbed?
“It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” he said.
Cook told the Pioneer Press before the 2020 season he was the “best back” in the NFL. Now, though, he insists on spreading the wealth.
“I feel like we have the best backfield in the NFL,” said Cook, preferring to include teammates Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu and others.
As far as Mattison is concerned, there’s no doubt where Cook stands.
“He’s the best back in the league,” Mattison said.
Mattison also was at Cook’s camp. So were Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn, and fullback C.J. Ham.
There were 205 kids registered, including 40 girls. While the cost for the two days was $169, more than half the campers attended free due to sponsorships from local businesses.
“Great turnout,” Cook said. “The kids, I know they had fun. I had fun like I’m a kid because I was a kid one day and I idolized somebody. Just to be out here giving back to the community that gave me an opportunity to reach my dreams is special to me.”
Former Vikings linebacker Ed McDaniel served as football commissioner for the camp. He enjoyed watching Cook interact with the kids.
“He loves it,” said McDaniel, who played for Minnesota from 1992-2001. “You see him out there participating in the drills. A lot of guys (who have camps) just show up, but he participated in the camp the whole two days.”
At the end, Cook distributed awards to campers in a variety of categories. He didn’t deny there was one he handed out that felt particularly special.
It was for best running back.