ORLANDO — Dalvin Cook was the center of attention in more ways than one at Saturday’s Class 6A state title game.
The Miami Central running back led his team to a 52-7 victory over Seffner Armwood, giving the Rockets their second straight championship and third in four years.
Cook rushed for 223 yards and four scores on 19 carries, including an impressive 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
After the game, he was surrounded by more than two dozen media members and pressed about his recruitment, which has heated up this month due to the contact period.
He responded to every reporter with his usual cool, calm and collected demeanor, but walked away from the interview leaving more questions than answers.
“I’m very excited,” Cook said when asked how he feels about enrolling early at Florida.
“I know the type of player I am. I’m going to work hard for what I want, and I’m going to go and change the program.”
Then things got interesting.
When asked where things stand with his pledge to UF, Cook responded, “I’m committed to Florida. I’m 100 percent until the Under Armour game.”
That’s when he plans to reveal his final decision, which Cook said he made last week.
“In my mind, I know where I’m going,” he said. “Nobody knows but me. I’m going to do it halftime of the Under Armour game and I’m going to put my hat on.”
If Cook is 100 percent committed to Florida and already has his mind made up, doesn’t that mean he’ll announce for the Gators on Jan. 2?
“You never know,” he said.
What Cook does know is that after two weeks of coaches coming by his school and house, he has figured out which staff he wants to play for.
“Once you keep hearing the same thing from all the coaches, sometimes you’ve got to recognize what’s real and what’s fake,” Cook said. “That’s why I’m going to shut it down. It’s shut down today.”
“The coaches I felt the most comfortable around, they came in, kept it real with me. I just felt comfortable with those coaches.”
UF assistant Travaris Robinson is Cook’s primary recruiter and doesn’t appear to be one of the coaches he considers fake.
“Coach T-Rob, he can relate to me,” Cook said. “He’s been through all this, so he knows how it goes. When you open your recruiting process you can hear a lot of things, and your mind kind of gets confused. He said he knows how it is.”
Cook claims he didn’t get turned off by Florida’s 4-8 record in 2013.
“I know the type of player I am, and I wasn’t even worried about the season they had because I know I can probably go fix it,” he said. “I’m just trying to get in the offense that fits me.”
Who UF hires as its next offensive coordinator could make or break Cook’s commitment to the Gators.
“It’s going to matter a lot, because I want an offensive coordinator that really fits me and can relate to my game,” he said. “I’m trying to go to an offense that’s really balanced, that can run the ball and pass the ball. I’m trying to get ready for that next step and who’s going to groom me into that next step.”
The Florida coaches have given Cook an idea of what they plan to run next season.
“They said they’re trying to run the offense that Auburn ran a little bit this year,” he said. “They’re going to spread it out, and they’re going to pass it and run it.”
Does that appeal to Cook?
“Yeah, it does,” he said.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder has signed financial aid agreements with Florida, Florida State and Miami. His coach, Roland Smith, said his star player has leaned toward each school at one point in time.
“It’s different schools different days,” Smith said. “He’ll pick the right one in the end. I really believe that. He has a lot of coaches on edge right now, but it’s a tough decision.
“One thing he doesn’t want to do is hurt anybody’s feelings. But these coaches have been told no before, so you have to do what’s best for you.”
Smith feels Brent Pease’s replacement will determine whether or not Cook sticks with UF.
“He will have to feel comfortable with the new OC they bring in, and he has to see if it’s the right fit for him,” Smith said. “At first it was. He’s still committed, but we’ll see.”