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Vikings’ Cook checking off list of meeting legendary running backs

DETROIT — Dalvin Cook met one legendary running back Sunday. He hopes to run into another on Thursday.

The Vikings’ young star met Hall of Fame inductee Barry Sanders for the first time prior to Sunday’s 42-30 win at Detroit. He grew up idolizing Sanders and has studied him on film.

On Thursday, the Vikings play host to Washington at U.S. Bank Stadium and Cook is eager to see Adrian Peterson, the former Minnesota star in his second year with the Redskins. Peterson, however, might not be able to play because of an ankle injury.

After chatting briefly with Sanders at Ford Field, Cook made some Sanders-like moves while carrying 25 times for 142 yards against Sanders’ former team.

“Cool moment,” Cook said Monday. “Barry is a legend at my position, one of the greats, if not the greatest. So, to meet that guy, shake his hand and stand in front of him and share words with him is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

So what did Sanders, who played for the Lions from 1989-98, have to say?

“He just told me to keep doing what I’m doing,” Cook said. “He’s liking what he’s seeing, and just hearing that from a legend just makes you want to work even harder.”

Cook leads the NFL with 725 rushing yards while averaging 5.5 yards a carry.

“On my iPad, that’s the only cut-up I watch is Barry Sanders,” Cook said. “I don’t watch him because of the schemes they ran or anything like that; I watch him because of how he maneuvered in tight spaces and how he moved defenders and opened up holes for himself. One of my idols.”

Cook also looks up to Peterson, who starred for Minnesota from 2007-16. A month after letting Peterson leave as a free agent, the Vikings selected Cook in the second round of the 2017 draft. The two have chatted on a few occasions.

On Sept. 11, 2017, at U.S. Bank Stadium, Cook rushed for 127 yards against the Saints in his first NFL game. Peterson carried just six times for 18 yards.

“That was a special moment I shared with him,” Cook said. “For him to come back into this thing, I know it’s a special moment for him, too. I’m just happy to be a part of this moment.”

Peterson suffered an ankle injury in Washington’s 9-0 loss to San Francisco on Sunday. The Redskins didn’t practice Monday but listed Peterson as DNP on their early injury report.

If Cook winds up leading the NFL in rushing this season, he would share something with Sanders, who did so four times, and with Peterson, who led three times. Peterson is the only Minnesota player ever to top the league in rushing.

“It would be special for those guys up front,” Cook said of such an accomplishment. “They’ve been working their tail off … I like to win football games, but I think us rushing the ball well can lead to wins, so we’ve just got to keep rushing the ball well.”

Cook’s running has played a big role for the Vikings (5-2), who have won three straight. He has gained 100 or more yards in five games and scored eight touchdowns.

“It’s amazing seeing how hard he works every day, and it shows in the games,” Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. said. “With Dalvin, you don’t have to give him a lot. We’ve just got to get a little open hole, and he’ll find the crease and make something out of it. He’s just a very special player.”

Cook is on pace to rush for 1,657 yards. Only Peterson ever rushed for more in a Vikings uniform, 1,760 yards in 2008 and 2,097 — the second-best rushing season in NFL history — in 2012.

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