James Cook: Georgia running back ready to once again create his own mark ahead of 2022 NFL Draft

ATHENS — In the minutes after Georgia won its first national championship in over 40 years, James Cook spent much of his press conference talking about his brothers.

Not about his actual brother — Dalvin Cook, the running back for the Minnesota Vikings against which James has always been publicly measured. But his fellow teammates. His Bulldogs.

“I mean, with me, from Miami, really it was just playing for my brothers and playing for the University of Georgia really,” Cook said. “Just coming here, like, I mean, I always wanted to win a National Championship growing up, so, I mean, we got together as brothers and we came back for one more year. And we got the dub and we worked hard all year, I mean, just to do it for the University of Georgia and everybody in this program.”

Related: Social media wowed by James Cook, Georgia football manhandling of Tennessee

Then, seemingly out of nothing, Cook ripped off a 67-yard run against Alabama in the national championship game. The senior running back showed his breakaway speed along with his ability to make defenders miss. It set up Georgia’s first touchdown and ultimately its national championship.

It’s why he figures to be a coveted NFL draft prospect. Players who can do things like that in games like the national championship don’t come around all that often.

“We worked hard as older guys,” Cook said. “We led the right way. Just the whole off-season was special, how we connected, like the reason why we’re here today talking to you guys.

Cook’s ability as both a pass-catcher and running back is why he’s expected to be taken in the second or third round of the upcoming NFL draft. He clocked in with a 4.42 40-yard dash, faster than that of his older brother. Cook will be competing with Iowa State’s Breece Hall, Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller and Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker to be among the first running backs taken.

Cook arrived at Georgia in the same recruiting class as fellow running back Zamir White. The duo has come a long way since then, as White battled through multiple ACL injuries, while Cook become noticeably more bulked up during his time in Athens.

Perhaps most encouraging for Kirby Smart is that the two also developed into crucial leaders for the Georgia program in their time in Athens.

“When you start talking about Jordan Davis, Zamir White, Nakobe Dean, James Cook, a special group that will be remembered for a long time,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said after the win over Alabama.

Georgia has put a number of running backs into the NFL in recent seasons. Nick Chubb, D’Andre Swift, Sony Michel and others all dazzled during their time at Georgia. Cook certainly did that for the Bulldogs.

The one key difference though when it comes to Cook and the fellow members of RBU is that Cook left Georgia as a champion. Cook’s older brother Dalvin could not say the same during his time at Florida State.

But James Cook and his Georgia brothers did. And Cook didn’t play some little brother role for the Bulldogs either. He led from the front of the bus, a key pillar on Georgia’s championship team.

“I think James, one, has had a tremendous career here,” Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken said of Cook in December. “He’s one of our leaders that every week we talk about, along with Zamir and some of our other guys, being captains of our team, and I think he’s going to have a fantastic career at the next level.”

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