Dalvin Cook wanted to change his jersey number a year ago. That was when the NFL first relaxed its rules for which numbers players at specific positions were eligible to wear. But then he found out that switching from 33 to his desired 4 would require him to buy out the entire existing inventory of 33 jerseys, a price tag estimated at around $1.2 million.
"I'd been trying to do it last year, but they tried to take my money from me," Cook said. "That's important nowadays."
Cook learned that if he waited a year, he'd be able to make the switch at no cost. So that's what he did; the Vikings' star running back spent a fifth and final NFL season with 33 on his jersey in 2021. He played well when healthy, but missed several games due to injury and saw his numbers fall from the previous two seasons as Minnesota fell short of the playoffs again.
Now, as he enters his sixth season, it's official: Cook is back in No. 4 for the first time since college.
Something like a jersey number might not seem like a big deal, but this carries significant meaning to Cook and his family. It's the number his big brother wore growing up in Miami, it's the number he wore growing up and during a standout college career at Florida State, and it's the number he passed down to his little brother James Cook, who will be drafted this year after a breakout 2021 season at Georgia.
"My dad passed away like a year ago, and that was a promise I made to him, that I was going to get back in my number and get back to getting us a Super Bowl around here," Cook said on Tuesday. "That number means a lot to me. I started playing football because of my bigger brother, and he wore number four and he was like a hero in my eyes when I seen him play football, so I tried to carry the legacy on because he switched sports and started playing basketball. I kept the number going, passed it on to my little brother and passed it on to my little cousins, and it's like a tradition in my family and a tradition back in Miami."
When Cook was drafted by the Vikings in 2017, NFL rules dictated that he had to choose a number between 20 and 49. He couldn't keep 4, so he went with 33. But even though he didn't have 4 on his jersey, it was still his nickname.
"4 is 4," Justin Jefferson said. "That's him. We don't call him 33, we call him 4. So to see him back in that 4, he grew up with that number, he went to college with that number. I feel like that number 4 gives him that extra confidence that he already had and he's just feeling comfortable in that number, so I'm definitely excited to see him in that 4."
Cook agrees that it's more than purely a cosmetic change. He feels good in the number and believes there's a mental aspect to that.
"Mentally, I'm better in that number," he said. "Overall I think it's a better thing for my family and for everybody around here. They're going to see a version (of me) that you've never seen before. You're going to see something special. It comes with hard work. It just don't come with putting the number on. It comes with putting the work in each and every day, trusting the process that we've got going on around here and just going on the attack every day, bringing the energy and just being me. Not being nothing else but being number 4."
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