EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings team captains for the 2020 season will include first-timers Dalvin Cook and Harrison Smith, the team announced Wednesday.
The teammates will join returning captains Anthony Barr (2018-20), Kirk Cousins (2018-20), Riley Reiff (2017-20) and Kyle Rudolph (2017-20).
While the roles became official this week, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen in late July that he planned to designate Cook with the honor.
"I love Dalvin," Zimmer told Allen on KFAN's 9 to Noon. "I'm going to make him a captain because of the things he represents here and the way that he's gone about his business and works."
Zimmer shortly thereafter spoke to Twin Cities media members and reiterated praise for Cook's character.
"Dalvin is a great person," he said. "He's a really good leader in the offensive room, he's good with all his teammates, he loves to play the game of football."
Cook was asked during his own media availability about what it would mean to be a team captain.
"I love being in Minnesota, being around these guys, and I just hope my hard work and everything I do shows those guys that 'I love this game, and I love being around y'all,' " Cook said. "I'd give it all for those guys.
"It just takes the hard work, and if you put the work in, it'll pay off for you," Cook added.
The running back has been a positive presence in Minnesota's locker room since being drafted 41st overall in 2017. Whether battling to come back from an ACL tear suffered during his rookie campaign or last season while rushing for career bests of 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns en route to his first career Pro Bowl, Cook always seems to have a smile on his face.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.
Vikings running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu said Cook "has an energy about him" that is contagious to his teammates.
"He captures up young men. He lives it," Polamalu said. "He works his tail off, he's a smart football player, he wants [his teammates] to have joy and have fun because he loves the game and he loves being a teammate.
"It's well-earned," Polamalu continued. "Since he's walked through the doors here, all he's done is work hard and produce. The definition of a leader is to make everybody around him better, and I believe he has."
Cousins has served as a team captain for the Vikings since signing with Minnesota as a free agent in 2018.
The quarterback said that Cook has earned the recognition not only for his play on the field but also the standard he sets off of it.
"He's just a player that doesn't get too high when things are going well and doesn't start to pat himself on the back and let his guard down. He just keeps his head down and keeps working," Cousins said earlier this summer. "That's certainly something in our locker room that we try to do, from the first guy to the last guy, and Dalvin helps set that example."
Added Cousins: "When you're a great player and you carry yourself the right away, someone like Dalvin ought to be a captain."
The same things can be said of Smith, who has quietly and authentically gone about his business since being drafted by the Vikings 29th overall in 2012.
View photos of the Vikings 2020 schedule in photos including all opponents for the regular season.
Although Smith isn't the most vocal guy on the team, the five-time Pro Bowler and 2017 All-Pro lets his actions do the talking.
Zimmer called Smith a "terrific player and great teammate" at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and later in the offseason emphasized, "Harrison leads by the way he works and the way he does things."
Vikings defensive backs coach Daronte Jones emphasized the benefit of Smith's mentorship for an especially young Minnesota secondary.
"It's unspeakable. You can't really gauge that," Jones said of Smith and Anthony Harris. "Harrison, the years of service, taking these young guys under his belt. Sharing with them certain things that he's picked up along his way.
"Just being that mentor to the young guys has really taken a totally new aspect and approach to how they are bringing these guys along and helping us get better in that way," Jones added.