TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Dalvin Cook received first-place votes on seven Heisman Trophy ballots playing the majority of the season on a balky hamstring and ankle.
So what might 2016 hold for the Florida State junior running back if he’s the healthiest he has been in more than two years?
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said he was floored watching Cook work during offseason conditioning, resembling the Cook who enrolled in January 2014 until a fall forced him to undergo shoulder surgery before spring practice.
“These last three weeks, you saw the Dalvin we saw when he first came in before the shoulder injury,” Fisher said. “He came in the offseason and just jumped at us. We went, ‘Holy moly. This guy is special like we thought he was.’”
A left hamstring pull against Wake Forest in the fourth game of the season lingered until a new problem arose with a sprained ankle. Cook missed only one game but routinely checked out of series when the hamstring or ankle would flare.
If not for the missed time, Cook might have eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards. Instead, he settled for 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns. He twice rushed for more than 200 yards and he topped 180 yards against both Clemson and Florida, which both fielded top-10 defenses in 2015.
The ankle issue persisted for a few weeks into the offseason, so Cook came in daily for treatment.
“It was something that nagged me a little bit,” he said. “It wasn’t a hurting pain but it was a little ache. I let Coach Fisher know I’d go take care of it.”
By the end of winter conditioning, however, he said the ankle was healed. Healthy, Cook has taken on a bigger role as a leader this offseason. He established himself as one of the core locker room voices in 2015, but Cook and Fisher said taking a larger leadership role has been an offseason priority for the Heisman candidate.
“His leadership has really emerged. Dalvin is a quiet guy by nature, but he hasn’t been on that practice field,” Fisher said. “He’s been a guy that has been vocal and getting after guys knowing that’s what he has to do.”
Adds Cook: “If I stay healthy and do what I got to do in the training and weight room, I’ll lead the guys the right way.”