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Dalvin and James Cook: All About the NFL Brothers' Bond On and Off the Field

Dalvin Cook currently plays for the Baltimore Ravens while younger brother James Cook is a running back for the Buffalo Bills

<p>David Berding/Getty ; Cooper Neill/Getty</p> Dalvin Cook before the start of the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 24, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. ; James Cook uns off of the field against the Kansas City Chiefs on October 16, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri.

David Berding/Getty ; Cooper Neill/Getty

Dalvin Cook before the start of the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 24, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. ; James Cook uns off of the field against the Kansas City Chiefs on October 16, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri.

For NFL brothers Dalvin Cook and James Cook, playing the same position on the field — running back — has led to a natural sibling rivalry over the years.

“Of course I’m going to say me, just like he’s going to say him,” James told NFL Network’s Good Morning Football when asked who the better running back was between the two. “We just competitive like that.”

But the two have had equally impressive stats in their professional careers: Dalvin, who has been in the NFL since 2017 and spent the majority of his career with the Minnesota Vikings, has made it to the Pro Bowl four consecutive times. James, meanwhile, was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2022 and is already making a name for himself in the franchise. (In 2023, he became the first Bills player to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season since 2017, Sports Illustrated reported.)

Neither Dalvin nor James have won a Super Bowl during their time in the league, though — something both brothers were looking to change in 2024 as each of their teams battled it out in the playoffs. On Saturday, Jan. 20, Dalvin and his current team, the Baltimore Ravens, defeated the Houston Texans in their divisional round playoff game, securing a place in the AFC Championship Game; while on Sunday, Jan. 21, James and the Bills' season came to an end after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24.

Related: 31 Sets of Siblings Who've Competed in the NFL in the Last 10 Years

Despite wins and losses, the Cook brothers continue to cherish their time in the NFL — both individually and as brothers.

“Having him as an older brother is a plus for me. Being in the NFL, he tells me all the tricks and trades to the game,” James told Good Morning Football about Dalvin. “Him being a vet, just looking up to him as an older brother — it’s special.”

From their childhood roots to their success on the professional level, here is everything to know about Dalvin and James Cook.

Dalvin and James come from a big family

<p>Dalvin Cook Instagram</p> Dalvin and James Cook with their family.

Dalvin Cook Instagram

Dalvin and James Cook with their family.

The Cook clan extends far beyond just Dalvin and James: The brothers are two of six children born to James Cook Sr. and Varondria White, according to ESPN. Their eldest brother, DeAndre Burnett (who was the only sibling to take their mother’s maiden name), was born in January 1994, followed by Dalvin in August 1995 and James in September 1999. James Sr. and White also had three daughters together — Daneshia, Jameisha and Jamiya — and James Sr. had a son from another relationship named Demarcus.

Dalvin wasn’t always surrounded by his siblings, however. When the Ravens running back was 13 years old, he moved in with his grandmother, Miss Betty, and his father, the Orlando Sentinel reported. According to White, Dalvin left home after developing a rift with her following her split with James Sr.; however, Dalvin told Sports Illustrated it was to relieve some pressure off of his mother and to be in a different school district.

For Miss Betty, who regularly opened her home to children, the reason didn’t matter, though.

“All I know is he was here,” she told Sports Illustrated in 2017. “And he has been here ever since.”

They grew up in Miami

<p>Stephen Maturen/Getty</p> Dalvin Cook points to the crowd after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter of the game against the Atlanta Falcon on September 8, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Stephen Maturen/Getty

Dalvin Cook points to the crowd after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter of the game against the Atlanta Falcon on September 8, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Though Dalvin left home in 2007 to live with his grandmother, both Dalvin and James were raised in Miami-Dade County in Florida. James spent his childhood with his mother in the Carol City area of Miami Gardens, while Dalvin lived in Opa-Locka with his grandmother and father. Both areas, however, were not without their problems; Opa-Locka even had the 10th highest violent crime rate in the nation in 2017, Sports Illustrated reported.

Dalvin and James, though, are proud of their roots and defend their hometowns despite the tough conditions that surrounded them growing up.

“Where I grew up, it was — I mean, it wasn’t bad — but you’ve got areas like that are bad,” James told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2021.

Dalvin echoed similar sentiments to Sports Illustrated: “That’s just a typical upbringing in Miami, what comes with it.”

Their area was also well-known for producing top-tier football talent. Both Dalvin and James attended Miami Central High School, whose home football field is at Traz Powell Stadium in Northwest Miami. In addition to Dalvin and James, current NFL players Amari Cooper, Teddy Bridgewater, Duke Johnson and Devonta Freeman all got their start at Traz Powell, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Just growing up in Miami, it was really competitive down there,” James told Vikings.com in 2022. “It’s a different environment against the top high schools in the country.”

He added, “It really prepares you for the next level.”

Their father, James Sr., died in December 2020

<p>Dalvin Cook Instagram</p> Dalvin and James Cook with their family.

Dalvin Cook Instagram

Dalvin and James Cook with their family.

On Dec. 29, 2020, James Sr. died at the age of 46 from complications from diabetes, ESPN reported.

Both Dalvin and James were in the midst of football season when the death of their father occurred. Dalvin missed the final game of his fourth NFL season with the Minnesota Vikings to travel home to Miami, and James, then a star running back on the University of Georgia football team, opted not to play in the Peach Bowl to be home with his family after the tragic loss, according to Sports Illustrated.

Dalvin, as his father’s second eldest child, felt a responsibility to step up as the patriarch of the family. Despite his busy NFL career, Dalvin makes sure to frequently check in with his siblings as James Sr. would do, ESPN reported.

“Now, I’ve got a bigger role,” he told ESPN in 2021. “Just looking out for my brothers and sisters and my grandma, too. I just feel like that’s my role now in his absence.”

Despite staying strong for his family, Dalvin still struggles with the loss of his father, with whom he was particularly close.

“He was like my hero through everything,” Dalvin told ESPN. “No matter what he did, he was just a hero to me in my eyes. He was what guided me.”

He continued, “It’s still hard. I’m tough. He made me like this. And I’m just trying to get through it.”

Their older brother, DeAndre, was a professional basketball player

<p>Frederick Breedon/Getty</p> Deandre Burnett plays in the SEC Quarterfinals at Bridgestone Arena on March 10, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Frederick Breedon/Getty

Deandre Burnett plays in the SEC Quarterfinals at Bridgestone Arena on March 10, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dalvin and James aren’t the only members of their family who have had success in professional sports: Their older brother, DeAndre Burnett, had a brief career playing professional basketball overseas.

Burnett played for the University of Miami for a single season before transferring to Ole Miss, where he was a “natural scorer who has always shown the ability to make plays,” coach Andy Kennedy said in a statement, per USA Today.

Burnett went on to play two seasons of professional basketball overseas: He was drafted by the Leicester Riders in the U.K. in 2018, and then played one season in the Ukrainian Basketball Superleague in 2019.

Dalvin has played for the Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens

<p>Adam Bettcher/Getty</p> Dalvin Cook during pregame against the New York Jets at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Adam Bettcher/Getty

Dalvin Cook during pregame against the New York Jets at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

After three successful seasons at Florida State University — where he holds both the single season and career rushing records — Dalvin decided to forego his senior season and enter the 2017 NFL Draft, according to NFL.com. Despite being considered one of the top running backs in the draft that year, off-the-field problems (including prior run-ins with the law and shoulder injuries) led to Dalvin not being selected in the first round of the draft.

“I didn’t care what anyone said [about me], to be real,” Dalvin told Sports Illustrated about his pre-draft public perception. “I always felt like I was a misunderstood person. Nobody got the chance to know me in the whole process.”

Dalvin was eventually selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He spent six seasons with the Vikings — and made it to four consecutive Pro Bowls — before being released by the team in 2023, according to Vikings.com.

In August 2023, Dalvin signed a one-year, $8.6-million contract with the New York Jets, NFL.com reported, but was released by the team in January 2024. Shortly after, he was signed by the Baltimore Ravens for the postseason, according to CBS Sports.

James won a national championship at Georgia before entering the NFL

<p>Andy Lyons/Getty</p> James Cook at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Andy Lyons/Getty

James Cook at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Though James initially committed to play football at Dalvin’s alma mater Florida State, according to CBS Sports, he switched gears during his senior year of high school and decided to attend the University of Georgia, ESPN reported. That decision turned out to be a wise one, as James and the Bulldogs won the College Football Playoff National Championship against Alabama in January 2022 — marking Georgia’s first national championship win since 1980.

“I just took everything and tried to make the most of it in order to leave my legacy,” James said about winning a national championship, according to Vikings.com. “I know I had a purpose to help us win a national championship. [Georgia] hadn’t won one in 40 years.”

In the game, James made history of his own when he recorded a 67-yard run — the longest run ever recorded in a national championship game, per Sports Illustrated. Following the win and James’ standout performance, he entered the 2022 NFL Draft, where he was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the second round. His big brother, Dalvin, was there to celebrate with him when the announcement was made.

“My little brother is the right definition of just working hard and putting your head down, and going and getting what you deserve,” Dalvin told USA Today following James being drafted. “Now, he’s a Buffalo Bill and I’m just happy. I get to say, ‘Me and my brother are second-round picks.’ ”

Dalvin has “big expectations” for his little brother James’ football career

<p>James Cook Instagram</p> James Cook signing with the Buffalo Bills.

James Cook Instagram

James Cook signing with the Buffalo Bills.

With Dalvin and James both playing the same sport — and the same position — a natural competitiveness exists between the brothers. But that also allows them to push each other, share advice and tips (the two have even trained together in Miami in the off-season), and appreciate one another’s talents.

Dalvin, in particular, has a lot of admiration for his little brother’s skills on the football field — and, as a result, holds him to high standards.

“I’ve got big expectations for him, bigger shoes than anybody can imagine for him and he can imagine for himself,” Dalvin told the Athens Banner-Herald about James in 2020. “He knows how hard I am on him, how hard I push him. I think he’s just scratching the surface of the things you’re going to see.”

And for James, having a big brother in the NFL is a constant source of inspiration.

“Having an older brother, he tells me to keep going and keep working hard and you can get whatever you want in life. Then one day if you keep working, if I keep working, then I can be like him,” James said to the Athens Banner-Herald.

Dalvin has two children

<p>David Berding/Getty</p> Dalvin Cook warms up against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 24, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

David Berding/Getty

Dalvin Cook warms up against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 24, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

April 2017 marked two momentous occasions for Dalvin: It was the month he was drafted into the NFL and the month that he became a father. He and his high school girlfriend Jacquilla Morris welcomed a son, who they named Dalvin Cook Jr.

When Dalvin learned that Morris was pregnant, the news motivated him not only to be successful in football but also in fatherhood.

“It’s changed my life — I can tell you that,” Dalvin told the Orlando Sentinel about becoming a father.

He continued, “I’m just trying to raise him the right way — I am going to raise him the right way. I had my dad in my life, and my daddy taught me how to be a father. I feel like I’m entitled to teach him how to be a man.”

Five years later, Dalvin became a father of two. According to the NewYorkJets.com, Dalvin missed practices with the team in August 2023 to return to Minnesota for the “birth of a child.”

James called playing against his brother in the NFL a “dream come true”

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Despite playing the same sport growing up, James and Dalvin never played in a football game together due to their four-year age gap. That all changed in November 2022, when the brothers faced off for the first time in a Vikings-Bills match-up.

Up to 30 family members traveled to Buffalo for the occasion, which was referred to as the “Cook Bowl,” and their mom, Varondria, made split hoodies for the group.

“They’ve got a picture of Dalvin on one side and picture of James on the other, and their names are on the sleeve on the side where their picture is,’’ she told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press prior to the game. “Then on the back it says, ‘Cook Off.’ ”

And although Varondria had spent years watching Dalvin and James play football, watching them play against each other brought up a different set of emotions.

“I’m very nervous,’’ she told the Pioneer Press. “I’m excited, but I’m actually nervous. I’ll just be there to cheer for them. Regardless of who wins, I just want the boys to have fun and do well.’’

For James, however, getting to play against his big brother in the NFL was a “dream come true,” according to BuffaloBills.com.

“We both dreamed of being in the NFL. We both just gotta keep grinding, get better and better and keep leaning on each other,” James added.

Dalvin expressed similar feelings to Vikings media prior to the face-off, which the Vikings won 33-30.

“It’s definitely going to be fun,” Dalvin said about playing against his little brother. “It’s just funny how things work out. We made it to the stages of our career that we aimed for when were younger. So, we’ve just got to take advantage of it.”

Following their 2022 match-up, Dalvin and James played each other twice during the 2023 regular season — with Dalvin on the New York Jets and James still on the Bills. Each brother took away a win, with the Jets winning the first game (22-16 in overtime) and the Bills winning the second (32-6). Following the second game, Dalvin and James shared a brotherly moment in the tunnel together that was caught on social media.

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