Without Devonta Freeman, there may be no Dalvin Cook. Now the Miami natives face off

Devonta Freeman and Dalvin Cook share a lot of similarities. Both were highly recruited running backs out of Miami Central High. Both played college ball at Florida State. Both are starters on a NFL team.

This connection already makes the Minnesota Vikings’ Sunday afternoon game against the Atlanta Falcons significant. But knowing this match up might not have happened without Freeman’s “blueprint” is by far the most intriguing narrative.

“Devonta was really one of the first people I seen accomplish going to college,” Cook told Chad Gaff of The Athletic. “Once I saw him do it, I was like, ‘Yeah this can be done. There is hope that we can make it.’”

The two running backs have known each other since a youth football coach introduced Cook to Freeman when the latter was a sophomore at Central, according to The Athletic. Their relationship blossomed as the elder Freeman went from Florida State to the NFL, embracing the role of a mentor along the way:

“I was looking for people to look up to too because it’s hard when you grow up in a tough area,” Freeman said to The Athletic. “We didn’t really have that growing up in Miami because there was so much gun violence and gangs going on. It’s easy to get sidetracked.”

Cook followed Freeman’s footsteps, first as a heavily recruited running back out of Miami-Dade County then again as a dominant force at Florida State. But the similarities just don’t stop there. Now, both are trying to bounce back from injury-plagued seasons.

C. Isaiah Smalls II is a reporter covering breaking and trending news for the Miami Herald. Previously, he worked for ESPN’s The Undefeated as part of their inaugural class of Rhoden Fellows. He is a graduate of both Columbia University and Morehouse College.