EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Xavier Rhodes and Dalvin Cook are Miami natives who played at Florida State and became high draft picks by the Minnesota Vikings.
Rhodes, who was selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft when Cook was preparing for his senior year of high school, said he was familiar with Cook's progression from the prep ranks to joining the Seminoles and wanted to help the running back once he became a member of the "Minnesota Vikes."
So Xavier, any advice for Dalvin on making his regular-season debut?
"Yeah. Run the ball," Rhodes said with a laugh.
That's worked pretty well for Cook so far. He set school records with 4,464 rushing yards and 46 rushing touchdowns in just three seasons with the Seminoles.
The second-round pick is set to make his first start for the Vikings on Monday Night Football against a Saints team that signed Vikings career rushing leader Adrian Peterson this offseason.
He said he's excited about the opportunity in front of "one of the best environments and best fan bases."
Cook echoed what veteran Latavius Murray said when he signed with Minnesota this spring about not trying to be Peterson. Instead, the backs and Jerick McKinnon will just try to be the best versions of themselves.
"That's going to be the key, to stay the course and be me," Cook said. "Don't try to stick out or be anybody else, just be me and be the best version of me for my teammates. Trying to be anybody else can take you out of your game, so being the best version of Dalvin and giving 100 percent [will be my approach]."
That doesn't mean that Cook hasn't been impressed by Peterson's 10 previous seasons.
"Amazing plays, that's all I can say," Cook said. "The things he put on film are unbelievable, some of the tackles he broke, the long runs, you always know Adrian as being a physical back. He could do it all and was just an amazing player overall."
Cook rushed 17 times for 70 yards with an average of 4.1 yards per carry and a long of 15 in three games this preseason. He also added six catches for 35 yards with a long of 10.
He showed versatility at Buffalo, being involved in three different ways on the Vikings first three offensive snaps, and had three straight runs of 15, 9 and 9 at Seattle the following week behind four Vikings that are expected to start Monday (Nick Easton at LG, Pat Elflein at C, Joe Berger at RG and Mike Remmers at RT). Rashod Hill started at left tackle against the Seahawks while Riley Reiff was on the mend.
"Very comfortable with whoever they've put in there," Cook said. "Those guys have been doing a great job of going in there and being the next man up and accountable. I'm comfortable with every group they've put in there, and we're just going to make it work."
Rhodes said Vikings defenders, who have never tackled Peterson, must adjust to the relationship change and do their best against a player who remains a friend.
"Before when he was here, we couldn't tackle him," Rhodes said. "And now it's a must – we have to tackle him. We have to go out there and tackle him no matter what the circumstances are, whether he was here or not.
"Being here and seeing what he can do and how much of a great player he is, going against him is just going to be fun," Rhodes said.