Dalvin Cook is heading to Florida State University.
Cook, a Miami Central running back who committed to the University of Florida in April, will instead join the FSU football team, rebuffing any chance for UF or University of Miami fans to cheer for him as one of their own.
Cook’s announcement came during an ESPNU telecast on Tuesday night before Thursday’s Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. While ESPN planned to show an interview with Cook, it showed a graphic and had a commentator say he was FSU bound.
“I will spend my next three to four years at the University of Florida State,” Cook said one the interview was shown.
Rated the second-best running back in the country by Rivals and 247Sports, Cook will now enroll at FSU — which begins its spring semester on Monday — after two days of posing for pictures and photobombing others while performing a gator chomp during interviews at Under Armour All-American Game practice sections in Lake Buena Vista.
Cook’s recruitment has been the talk of the college football landscape in the state as UF had its first losing season since 1979, FSU returned to national prominence thanks to coach Jimbo Fisher and the rise of its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston, and UM’s steady improvement while ascending from the clouds of NCAA sanctions. He kept his recruitment open since pledging to UF in hopes of “finding where my heart really is.”
Cook also signed financial grant-in-aid forms with all three schools at the beginning of December, which guaranteed his scholarship at each college but did not bind him to attend like a Nation Letter of Intent would.
He didn’t want to decommit from UF in the interim because he still had strong feelings about being a gator.
“Florida is my school,” Cook said on Dec. 7. “That’s what I always tell people: I’m always still committed to Florida. I ain’t never decommit because Florida is still in my heart right now. I’m still a Gator and that’s my school.”
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The Seminoles — who signed Fisher earlier in the day to a new five-year deal through the 2018 season for $21 million and will play Auburn for a BCS National Championship on Monday — have locked up arguably the best player in South Florida.
Along with the pros and cons each program presented, two of Cook’s closest friends — whose names are pronounced the same way — contributed factors that clouded Cook’s destination to the general public in the last week alone.
Cook’s teammate at Miami Central, junior wide receiver Da’Vante Phillips, decommitted from UF on Dec. 24, 2013, which caused a stir because both players want to attend the same school together. The next day, current FSU running back and former Miami Central standout Devonta Freeman was the Grinch who stole Christmas for UF and UM fans after posting a picture of Instagram on Christmas Day with a caption saying Cook was FSU bound.
Freeman knew all along, as Cook now becomes rivals with close friends whom he calls brothers in Central running back Joseph Yearby, offensive lineman Trevor Darling — both UM commits — and even his biological brother Deandre Burnett, who plays for the Hurricanes basketball team.
“My whole family grew up Canes fans and I grew up a Canes fan,” Cook said to the Miami Herald. “So it was hard with the recruiting process because I could’ve easily been a Cane. But you know, I had to think things out for myself and I had to think it over and, and I just came to a decision.”
Homestead wide receiver and UF commit Ermon Lane, another proclaimed brother Cook has been inseparable from during this week’s Under Armour festivities, may not be a rival for long as Lane plans to take an official visit to FSU on Jan. 31, 2014. Before Lane’s commitment to UF in August, it was Cook who was pushing Lane to become a Gator.
“At any time a program can go down and a program can go up,” Cook said regarding UF. “I just feel like if you’re a great player, a team is always missing that one guy that can take them to the next level. And if you trust in yourself and you go do it and you put your mind to it, you can change the team.”
Instead, Cook will look to help the Seminoles reach the national championship game for the second season in a row.
“I just want to really make sure I’m making the right choice for me,” Cook said. “And these next 3-4 years are going to decide the next 40 years of my life so I just want to really make sure that’s the right choice so I’m really going to make my decision and say it’s final.”
We’ll see until he finally becomes a college student on Monday — pending the drop/add period, of course.
This story was originally published January 1, 2014 12:01 AM.