Number 4

The number on Dalvin Cook’s jersey was always different.

He arrived at Florida State the same year FSU rolled out new jerseys and new number designs. He’d be the first to rock the number, no matter which one he chose.

As is the case with many high school stars, he was looking for a cool low number, probably thinking that if everything worked out, it could go down in history like some of the others.

At the time, 1 belonged to Kelvin. 2 belonged to Primetime. 3 was used by Kermit Whitfield for a game-changing kick return in the National Championship. And 5 was Jameis’s.

The number 4 was there for the taking, ready to be claimed by the next Seminole great, and that Seminole great was Dalvin Cook.

I’m convinced that his number spoke to him in a dream, because there was something special about Dalvin’s 4.

The new design of the numbers made his single number 4 look slim, but thick; strong, but explosive; fast, but shifty. It looked as if the number was always leaning forward, reading to burst at the snap of a ball.

Dalvin Cook’s number 4 looked a lot like… well… the actual Dalvin Cook. And when he had it on, he looked like a superhero.

Before Dalvin got here, Florida State won the National Championship, in part to the school’s formidable running attack of the young Karlos Williams, the beastly James Wilder, and the all-purpose Devonta Freeman. They were aptly nicknamed Young, Wild and Free, and all eventually made it to the league.

Dalvin Cook arrived on FSU’s campus not to fill the shoes of one running back, but to fill three. I’ve never measured Dalvin’s feet, but he went on to prove they were more than big enough.

He was already an FSU legend before those feet ever set foot on campus. He was raised right in the heart of Hurricane country, committed to the University of Florida as a high school student, then spurned the Gators before National Signing Day and came to the true greatest school in the sunshine state, Florida State University.

Legend.

That legend only grew once he got here. It took him a while to see the field, but once he did, he never looked back and the fans never turned away.

His number 4 gashed defenses unlike anything ever seen in the garnet and gold. He ran defenders over, beat them to the corners, and shook them out their cleats.

It was like Dalvin would hit a hole, pause the game, contemplate wether he was going to push the circle or square button for his next move, and then unpause it. Every play.

He joined that 2014 season and helped FSU extend their win streak to 29-straight games, carrying FSU when Seminole great Jameis couldn’t.

The only blemish (that I couldn’t go without mentioning) was the Oregon game his freshman year where he fumbled twice.

It was a low point for FSU, but no lower than for Dalvin. I would never mention it to his face, and I feel wrong bringing it up now. But if there was ever such a thing as “redemption”, those next two years were it and then some.

With no Kelvin, no Jameis, no Rashad Green, the 2015 and 2016 seasons were the Dalvin Cook shows. Everyone knew it. And no one stopped him.

1691 rushing yards. 7.4 yards per attempt. 19 rushing TDs. All in 2015.

1620 rushing yards. 6.0 yards per attempt. And 18 rushing TDs. All in 2016 (and counting).

In his final two seasons, well, Dalvin cooked a lot of defenses…

Throughout his career, one of the most beautiful things in sports was not even quite watching Dalvin run, it’s been seeing the dirt that flies off the back of his shoes when he does. It’s seeing the cuts that any normal human anatomy shouldn’t be able to do. It’s seeing him stiff arm a DB so hard that you begin feeling empathic towards the defender’s family.

Earlier this year, in a losing effort against UNC, I nearly wanted to cry watching Dalvin. He ran so hard. So many times. He had the hopes of the whole Stadium and Seminole nation on his back and he made 8 yard gains look poetic. Again and again.

Dalvin Cook was Batman. His number 4 jersey was his bat suit. I thought that if Dalvin retired right then and there and spent the rest of the season, preparing for the NFL, I wouldn’t blame him.

But no. He kept playing. He continued on with his quest for FSU immortality, and now he has reached it.

His final numbers? 4,319 total rushing yards (FSU’s 1st all time). 45 rushing touchdowns (FSU’s 1st all time). 2-time First-Team All-American. Undefeated against the Gators and Miami.

Legend.

His resume will never include a Heisman or any of the major trophies (a damn shame if you ask me). But Dalvin proved his worth every season, every game, and every run.

I saw every pass Jameis threw at FSU, all the ridiculous highlights Kelvin Benjamin made, and how Jalen Ramsey seemed to be everywhere on defense.

Still, Dalvin Cook’s the best all around football player I’ve ever seen in an FSU uniform.

He’ll go down in FSU history, and it’s only a matter of time till that jersey and his number 4 is hung up where it belongs among all the other greats.

Watching him play has been nothing short of a blessing, and for that, I thank him.

Thanks Dalvin. Thanks number 4.

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