EAGAN, Minn. – Dalvin Cook's heart shows up just as much as his feet on game day.
Cook's running ability is well-revered around the league, but his approach to the game and overall sportsmanship also is highly respected.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell emphasized how deserved Cook is of the honor.
"He's so well-respected in our building, but not a surprise to me that he is ultimately respected around the league the way he is," O'Connell said. "Not only the player that Dalvin is, but the person, the leader, the things he does outside of this building to better our community.
"He's really something, but as far as sportsmanship goes, I've seen it firsthand," O'Connell added. "He's one of the best I've been around."
The award, created in 2014, is presented each year to an NFL player who demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition. The award honors and is named after the late founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Rooney, Sr.
"Dalvin just checks every box for me. Great teammate, selfless, confident in himself," Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "He's a great playmaker, a great athlete. But he's fun to play with, and he's always positive. When things do go south, which they inevitably will, he's usually the first guy to be vocal and to keep it positive and bring energy – let everybody know, 'There's no panic here. We're good.'
"I've been in the fire with him so many times and just think so highly of him as a person and as a teammate," Cousins added.
Chargers safety Derwin James, Jr., played with Cook at Florida State and has since played against him at the NLF level. He recognizes the same things of Cook that his Vikings teammates do.
"There's no better, hard-working person than Dalvin. A great guy off the field," James said. "He's helped me become the leader I am today with being able to hold guys accountable and not ripping them. Bringing them up, he showed me that at Florida State. I just feel like that's my brother.
"He has that 'C' on his chest, and I always knew he was a leader. At Florida State, he was a voice for us," James continued. "I've seen him grow because he's been through injuries, been through adversity. He's battled back and never pointed fingers. And when he's out there, you see the production."
Cook's impact in Minnesota and beyond had previously been noticed from afar by linebacker Jordan Hicks, who now shares a locker room with the running back.
View photos of the eight Vikings players who have been named captain for the 2022 season.
"Being able to play against him, you instantly gain respect just because of what he's able to do on the field. Having to defend him in both the run and the pass, his ability to take it and make the big play, but then how physical he is as a running back makes him an extremely unique opponent to go against," Hicks said. "But then being on the other side and seeing him as a teammate and the way he approaches his mental aspect and his regimen throughout the week, you get to see how professional he really is.
"It's the leader that he is," Hicks added. "You walk in, and his impact is instantly noticed by his teammates; for me being a new guy, the respect he has within the locker room and his leadership on this team is top-notch."