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Dalvin Cook, Xavier Rhodes recall Jameis Winston's humor, edge at Florida State

"Longtime brother. Great bond. Jameis is a player that I look up to as a role model," Vikings rookie Dalvin Cook, right, has said of Jameis Winston. Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Xavier Rhodes and Dalvin Cook weren't with Jameis Winston at Florida State all that long, but the quarterback was quick to leave a lasting impression.

Rhodes, who starred in the Seminoles' secondary, was a junior when Winston arrived on campus in 2012. Winston redshirted that year and spent time on the scout team as he waited in line behind EJ Manuel.

That season, the future Minnesota Vikings cornerback got an up-close look at two traits that define Winston's personality: his competitive drive and his humor.

"He would always want to race. He thought he was the fastest person on the team, knowing he was the slowest," Rhodes joked. "He would compete in anything. Thought he had the best hands, thought he could cover any and everyone at [defensive back]. I'm like, 'Bro, you're just an all-around athlete, huh? Running a 4.8, huh?' "

Winston's confidence and belief in himself has been evident throughout his career. He did indeed get clocked at 4.97 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the 2015 combine, but that didn't slow any of his progress from a Heisman Trophy winner to budding NFL star with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Jameis is Jameis," Rhodes said. "He's confident in everything he does. He believes in his receivers. He's going to throw where they need to be at. He trusts that they're going to get there."

Rhodes' goal this Sunday is to disrupt Winston's ability to connect with his favorite targets when the Vikings look to bounce back from 1-1 start.

The Bucs' 6-foot-5, 231-pound wideout Mike Evans is a major matchup problem. So is DeSean Jackson, who at 30 is still one of the fastest players in the NFL, having clocked the third-fastest overall speed in the league a year ago, according to the NFL's Next Gen Stats.

Last week, Evans turned nine targets into seven receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown against the Bears, and Jackson had three receptions for 39 yards. They're two very different assignments for a corner who has already faced off with elite talent in the Saints' Michael Thomas and Steelers' Antonio Brown.

"If I'm on DeSean, I'll have to do a lot of hamstring workouts," Rhodes said. "If I'm on Mike Evans, I have to get in the weight room."

During Winston's final season in Tallahassee, in 2014, Cook was coming into college as a five-star prospect. He soon learned his quarterback would do more than fit passes through tight windows.

"We had a pull-read-option," Cook said. "Jameis would hand you the ball and try to get out and block for you. It just shows you the type of competitor he is."

During Cook's pre-draft process, the running back told reporters at the combine that reuniting with Winston would be "a dream come true."

"Longtime brother. Great bond. Jameis is a player that I look up to as a role model," Cook later said at his pro day. "Being in the backfield with him, it would be something special. I feel like we started to grow a bond at Florida State, so it would be something special."

The expectation entering the draft was that Tampa Bay would address its need for a running back as early as the first round. Instead, the Bucs took tight end O.J. Howard at No. 19. Cook was off the board with the 41st pick before Tampa Bay had its second selection.

There aren't any bitter feelings, and Cook's situation in Minneapolis couldn't have played out any better. The rookie is averaging 5.6 yards per rush and has the most rushing yards by any Vikings player (191) in his first two games.

While they're no longer on the same team, that bond between Cook and Winston still exists. The third-year quarterback has offered up advice on how to be "a good pro" while never growing complacent.

Winston is the reason Cook says he tuned in to watch HBO's "Hard Knocks" over the summer. The way Winston was portrayed was the truest representation of who he is.

"He did a pretty good job of not acting and being him[self]," Cook said.

That transparency and authenticity lends itself to the drive his former teammate believes makes Winston so great.

"He's a funny guy, but you look at guys like that, that can bring joy to the game and can kind of flip a switch and be a leader at the same time," Cook said. "I think that's why he was the No. 1 overall pick."