ORLANDO -- Wearing a special pair of golden Nike high top football cleats, Dalvin Cook was surrounded near midfield at The Citrus Bowl on Saturday afternoon by a throng of reporters hoping to find out where he will be headed in a few weeks.
Will he stay committed to the slumping, offensive coordinator-less Florida Gators? Is he going to stay home and play with his best friend and teammate, Joseph Yearby, down the road at the University of Miami? Or, will Cook take his talents to Tallahassee to play for Jimbo Fisher’s program, which is on the cusp of a national championship?
“In my mind I know where I’m going,” Cook said. “Nobody knows but me.”
Cook, ranked the No. 2 running back in the country by 247Sports.com, will tell the rest of the world where he is headed at halftime of the Under Armour All-American game Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
On Saturday, though, he had no problem showing Seffner Armwood his favorite destination of all — the end zone. With Yearby watching from the sideline on crutches, Cook scored four touchdowns and ran for 223 yards in leading the Rockets to their second consecutive crown and third state title in four seasons. The final was a 52-7 romp against previously unbeaten Armwood.
Although this wasn’t the way Cook and Yearby envisioned their high school careers coming to an end — with Yearby dealing with a broken left fibula — they still accomplished what they set out to do after losing to Armwood here two years ago. And that was to put Central into elite company while etching their names into the county record books. Cook and Yearby were 52-5 in their careers while combigning for 9,860 rushing yards and 132 touchdowns.
“I had no doubt in my mind we were going to finish the job,” said Yearby, who was lost for the season two weeks ago in the regional finals. “I just kept telling Dalvin don’t get comfortable, just keep running hard. They’ll stop chasing you eventually.”
Cook’s signature moment Saturday came on the very first play of the fourth quarter. He took a handoff, hit the hole hard and zoomed 80 yards untouched for a touchdown. Cook capped the play by somersaulting his way into the end zone, and then doing a set of pushups for coach Roland Smith near the sideline when officials flagged him for excessive celebration.
“Everytime I scored I went straight to Joe and told him ‘I love you,’ ” Cook said. “That’s my brother. That’s something you can never take away. We’re brothers for life.”
Yearby finished his career with 5,593 yards and 68 touchdowns, second-most behind only Bobby Washington in Miami-Dade history. Cook, who had 322 fewer carries than Yearby (721), finishes with 4,267 yards and 64 touchdowns. Together, though, they’re the most prolific duo ever in Dade, and quite possibly the state, too.
“It’s really not fair to have two kids like that,” Rockets coach Roland Smith said. “Not only are they great football players, but great human beings, great kids, great leaders. They do a tremendous job leading their teammates.”
As for college, Yearby said he is all set to begin in Coral Gables on Jan. 8, four days after he graduates early from Central. Will Cook be going with him? Yearby said Saturday he believes so.
After having UM and LSU coaches, Fisher and Texas coach Mack Brown at his house this past week, Cook said he’s shutting the recruiting process down. He isn’t planning on taking any late college trips. Ultimately, he said, the relationships he has forged with the coaches recruiting him are playing the biggest factor in his final decision.
“Wherever I feel like it’s a family [that’s where I’m going],” Cook said. “I want to feel like I’m at Miami Central again.
“I told Joe we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do at the end of the day. We have to go make our situation better for our family at the end of the day.”