James Cook in Georgia can finally be his only brother Dalphin

James Cook was walking his famous older brother Dalvin’s way to a tee: same stop (backwards), same high school (Miami Central), and for a while at least, same college (Florida).

It wasn’t easy. Expectations were unfair. It bears the same last name of 2013 “Mr. Florida Soccer’ The fast-paced leader in Florida had his flaws.

“High school was a bit tough,” Faroundria Burnett, James Cook’s mother, told The Post in a phone interview. “James has tried to live up to that hype and a lot of people are comparing them to each other.”

In July 2017, James made a change. A five-star recruit, he dropped out of Florida and later switched to Georgia, avoiding comparisons that would undoubtedly have fallen on his shoulders.

“I think it was the best thing for him to come out of my name, to just be him,” said three-time Vikings Pro Bowl player Dalvin Cook. “There would be a standard they kind of stuck to. …I didn’t want that for him. I wanted him to do his own thing and create a legacy of his own; just be James.”

James Cook scores during Georgia’s semi-final win over Michigan.
Getty Images

It was a good decision for James. He has enjoyed a solid career in Georgia, creating his own niche after patiently waiting for his opportunity. On Monday night, he will play Alabama in the National Championship game, a match for an unforgettable final season.

The 5-foot-11 back half set career highs in rushing yards (651), receiving yards (269) and touchdowns (11), improving his NFL stock. In the biggest game of his life to date — the College Football Playoff semifinal against Michigan last Friday — he excelled, collecting four passes for 112 yards and a point while also rushing for 32 yards. Now comes a bigger game, a chance to help the Bulldogs win their first National title since 1980.

Ultimately, that’s why James is back in school for one final season. At this time last year, he was on the fence. His father, also named James, died and was in mourning at his Florida home while Georgia defeated Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl. Bulldogs appearance coach Dale McGee wore Cook’s No. 4 jersey to honor him. His teammates and coaches sent flowers to Cook’s house and flooded his phone with encouragement.

dolphin cook
dolphin cook
AP

“I was literally in tears when I saw him,” Burnett said.

James added, “Everyone here made me feel special.”

It was then that he realized that he could not say goodbye to Athena yet. Delvin was in his ear, emphasizing his need to gain more experience before joining him in the NFL. His mother told him that the next level was not going anywhere. There was more to achieve in college. His first goal was to put Georgia back on the biggest stage in the sport.

“It’s so crazy,” Burnett said. “We said it, we’re going back to play for a national title.” He is very happy now. I’ve never seen him smile so much in my life.”

Dalvin saw a change in his brother when their father passed away at the age of 46 due to complications from diabetes. James, who was usually very cautious, released his emotions. They leaned on each other. James hit another gear this year. Dalvin saw him play for their dad, working harder than ever.

“I think he knows we’re playing for something bigger,” Dalvin said.

James Cook
James Cook
Jacob Kupfermann / Cal Sport Media /

Dalvin was always running backwards. He likes to say he was born to play center. James was different. He initially played in defense before being converted to running shortly before high school. After his brother’s career served as a motive. James thought that if Delphine could make it happen, he could.

“He’s got better hands than I do,” said Dalvin.

Soon, the brothers will play in the NFL. Maybe they’ll end up on the same team one day.

For now, a family dream can await in the NFL. Dolphin will be at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Monday to cheer on James. He did not win a championship during his three years in Florida. The younger brother might finally be able to outdo the older brother.

“I want him to have bragging rights. I want him to [do it] Dalvin said. “That would be good for Cook’s legacy.”

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