Dalvin Cook declared last year that he is the “best back” in the NFL. So what does his former college coach think about that?

“I’m not going to disagree with him, I promise,” said Jimbo Fisher.

Fisher coached Cook at Florida State from 2014-16 and is now the coach at Texas A&M. He has followed the running back closely since he joined the Vikings in 2017.

“I’ve been down the alley with him,” Fisher said in a recent telephone interview. “I’ll take him with anybody in pro football. I know there are some great ones, and I don’t mean to slight anybody else, but I know what Dalvin’s capabilities are, I know what his mindset is. And to me, he’s one of the most special guys in the league.”

When Cook was selected by Minnesota with the No. 41 overall pick in the second round of the 2017 draft, Fisher said he “was definitely a first-round talent.” You better believe there are teams that regret not taking Cook in the first round.

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“The Vikings got the steal of the draft in that one, I promise you,” Fisher said. “All the ones who didn’t think he was first round, I never understood that, and I used to laugh at that in that somebody’s going to regret that one day.”

Cook sat out 12 games as a rookie in 2017 due to a torn ACL and five games in 2018 because of hamstring issues. But he came back to rush for 1,135 yards in 2019 and 1,557 more in 2020.

Cook missed one game last season with a groin strain and another due to the death of his father. Still, he finished second in the NFL in both rushing and yards from scrimmage with 1,918. He led the NFL with an average of 137 yards from scrimmage per game.

“That’s my buddy,” Fisher said. “It doesn’t surprise me whatever he does. He’s as good as I’ve ever been around and as great of a player as he is, he’s a better person. He’s a workaholic, he’s a team guy. I love him to death. One of the all-time favorites I’ve ever coached. You talk about a competitor and a warrior, you can’t say enough great things about him.”

At Florida State, Cook rushed for 4,464 yards in three seasons, including 1,765 as a junior in 2016.

Fisher said he watches Cook “all the time” with the Vikings on television and reaches out to him “every now and then.” He continues to be impressed with how Cook, who last season ran the ball 312 times and made 44 catches for 361 yards, continues to bounce back from all the hits he takes.

“He gets banged up, and he comes back with big moments and big plays,” Fisher. “I have as much respect for him as anybody.”

With the NFL expanding the schedule from 16 to 17 games this season, Cook said recently he hasn’t set any individual goals for 2021. But if he remains healthy, a 2,000-yard rushing season certainly seems within reach.

“However much they give it to him, I promise you he’ll be as good of an option as they have,” Fisher said.

In this year’s draft, the Vikings picked up two more players once coached by Fisher. In the third round, they selected Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond, who played his final three college seasons under Fisher, and in the fourth round they picked up Florida State defensive end Janarius Robinson, who played for Fisher as a freshman in 2017.