EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Thirty-two players of the 90 on Minnesota's roster had not yet been born when the Vikings drafted Robert Smith on April 25, 1993.
Dalvin Cook is one of those 32, but the rookie running back was able to share turf and exchange thoughts with the Vikings second-leading rusher in franchise history on Wednesday when Smith attended an Organized Team Activity practice at Winter Park.
Smith was asked by Head Coach Mike Zimmer to address the team briefly and then spoke with Cook to the side for a few extra minutes.
The visit brought back memories that remain fresh in Smith's mind. He remembered his first rookie minicamp, stretching before practices and trotting to the offensive field. The same blocking bag he and contemporaries used for workouts still hangs in the fieldhouse and withstands punishment from today's players.
"It's unbelievable, you spend so much time in a place like this, and the beauty of this time of year when it's nice and warm is what stands out," Smith told Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall. "It's just amazing how much it feels like home."
The former first-round pick battled injuries early in his career before breaking through with 1,266 yards in 1997. He followed with 1,187 and made his first Pro Bowl in 1998. Smith posted 1,015 yards the next season before delivering a career-best 1,521 in 2000, when he was selected to his second Pro Bowl.
View images from the ninth of ten OTA practices at Winter Park on Wednesday.
Opting to retire after that season with 6,818 yards on the ledger, Smith transitioned to a second career as football analyst for national broadcasts. He will be on FOX this fall, and the former Ohio State Buckeye is looking forward to the network having Big Ten games for the first time.
He said Cook, who played for Florida State in the ACC, has caught his eye the past couple of falls.
Cook played in 38 games for the Seminoles and broke the school rushing record with 4,464 yards in just three seasons. He was selected in the second round this past April to help bolster the Vikings rushing attack this year and beyond.
"I love him as a player. Seeing him at Florida State, the ability to break the big runs, but the ability to play through nagging injuries," Smith said. "He had a hamstring [injury] a couple of years ago and had probably a 40-to-50-yard run.
"You could see, there was some question before the game on if he was going to play, and you could see during the run that it started to bother him and started pulling on him, but he still finished the run," Smith added. "That's what you need in the league. As the season goes on, no one is 100 percent healthy, especially at running back, so it's great to see he can do that stuff."