football Edit

Exit Interview: James Cook

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Interviews continued Thursday at the NFL Combine with a number of former Georgia players, including running back James Cook.

Cook met with reporters and covered a number of subjects, including why he pulled out of this year’s Senior Bowl and what it was like for Georgia to win its first national title in over 40 years.

James, we heard you pulled out of the Senior Bowl to work on your 40 [yard dash].

Cook: “I’m going to [improve] it (his 40-yard time). But I didn’t pull out of the Senior Bowl just because of my 40. I pulled out of the Senior Bowl because I felt like everybody had seen me play at the highest level—and I won a national championship, and I played a lot of football. So, I felt like I’d showcase my talent at the combine.”

How would you describe your play?

Cook: “I’m a versatile player who can do it all, line up in different positions, and a ‘dog’ and a leader.”

Do you watch and/or try to emulate the play of Alvin Kamara?

Cook: “Yeah, I watch [Kamara]. I watch Christian McCaffrey, those type of guys, and my brother (Dalvin Cook). I try to critique their game and try to steal [aspects of] their game and put it in my toolbox.”

How are you different from other backs?

Cook: “I’m versatile, do-it-all. I can play special teams, can split out wide. I can run between the tackles, and I can catch the ball.”

What have you been working on recently?

Cook: “Just working on everything, really, trying to keep everything perfect. I’ve been running routes, kind of practicing the little things that will take my game to the next level.”

Do you have any preference for which team drafts you?

Cook: “It really doesn’t matter. Whoever gives me my check (chuckles), and whoever drafts me, that’s where I’m going to go.”

Growing up in Miami, describe the level of football which is played down there.

Cook: “It’s really competitive down there where I’m from. Playing in Traz Powell Stadium and different environments like that against top high schools in the country, it really prepares you for the next level and gets you ready.”

What did you pick up from playing with D’Andre Swift at Georgia?

Cook: “Just [Swift’s] love for the game, how he prepares, how he treated his body. What I learned from him is his awareness, how he cuts, how he makes moves on defenders, how he makes guys miss. Having a guy like that in the [running backs] room was really a plus for me.”

What was it like to win the national championship this past season?

Cook: “Leaving Georgia with a win—a national championship—was awesome. Knowing that we were champs of the world, leaving with that legacy, it was a great feeling.”

What is it going to take for Georgia to continue its championship success?

Cook: “I’m not here to talk about Georgia. I’m here to talk about me and what I got going on. But I hope that those guys work hard and continue to do what they do, continue to have what they got going on.”

What aspect of your game do you think is better than other running backs?

Cook: “Like I said, catching the football. My hands are a ’10.’ I can catch very good and got soft hands.”

When you returned to Indianapolis for the combine, did it hit you that this is where you won the national championship?

Cook: “It didn’t hit me because I’m here for a different purpose. This trip is a different trip. It’s to go to the next level. It hit me when I won [the national championship], but it didn’t hit me [when I returned to Indianapolis] because I already felt it and dealt with it.”

[Asked about his 67-yard run in the third quarter against Alabama in the national title game, which led to a Georgia touchdown and a 13-9 lead.]

Cook: “That’s a play in that type of game which you never forget, which helped your team over the edge. But I wouldn’t say that just I helped my team. We had a team effort in it, and we all put our best foot forward to pull out that win in that game.”

Did you know that was going to be there on the pre-snap read [for his 67-yard run]?

Cook: “That was the play called. But just me being an athlete and my o-line blocking good, I just trusted my vision, hit the hole, and made guys miss.”

Every year at Georgia, you seemed to do a little more. How much do you have left before you hit your ceiling?

Cook: “I just try to take every game and make the most of it. My last year, knowing I had a purpose for why I came back—and that was to win a national championship. We hadn’t won one in over 40 years, so we all came back for a purpose, and we wanted to do something special.”

Did your brother give you any pointers on what to expect as you enter the NFL?

Cook: “As we talked, I learned to enjoy the process. Be yourself and smile, just be yourself, really.”

What do you think will happen when you and Dalvin face off in the league on opposing teams?

Cook: “We’re going to get after it. I’m going to try to beat him, and he’s going to try to beat me. That’s how competitive we are. If he’s on the other side, I’m going to try to beat him. And I know he’s going to try to beat me and run all over me. So, I’m going to try to do the same.”

When did it hit you that you had won a national title?

Cook: “It hit me after the game, when that confetti dropped. And enjoying that moment in the locker room with teammates.”

If you had to give an NFL head coach one game to justify picking you, what game would that be?

Cook: “I’d say, Tennessee. I showcased what I could do running in between the tackles, lining up wide, winning my one-on-ones, and beating the man across from me. And I wouldn’t say I did that by myself. We had a team effort. The team helped us win and helped me do what I had to do to help my team win.” (In Georgia’s 41-17 win over Tennessee in 2021, Cook rushed for a career-high 104 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns and made three receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown.)