Devonta Freeman's success provided a blueprint for Vikings' Dalvin Cook 

The meeting of Devonta Freeman and Dalvin Cook on Sunday goes way beyond what will take place on the field.

You've heard that expression before, but for these two running backs, it's especially true.

Freeman and Cook both attended Miami Central High School in Miami, Fla., and both went on to play at Florida State. Freeman rushed for 2,225 yards and 30 touchdowns in his three seasons in Tallahassee (2011-2013), while Cook rushed for 4,464 yards and 46 touchdowns (2014-2016).

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Both ended up being drafted after their successful careers as a Seminole, Freeman a fourth-round pick by the Falcons in 2014 and Cook, a second-round pick by the Vikings in 2017.

Not everyone where the two running backs grew up gets the same opportunities Cook and Freeman earned. And, Cook noted, Freeman provided the blueprint for how to get out of a place where 27 percent of family households live in poverty and the average household income is $36,520 a year.

"I was always hungry, so seeing situations he came from — I was in similar situations growing up — so seeing him do it and get to the NFL and strive how he's striving, I saw it was possible, Cook said of Freeman. "I've tried to put myself in the same place. I was pretty much on his trail to see how he did it and I tried to do the same thing."

Freeman and Cook have suffered significant injuries during their professional careers.

Atlanta's running back has missed 16 games over the past two seasons due to a variety of injuries. Freeman earned back-to-back Pro Bowl nods after the 2015-16 seasons.

Cook tore his ACL four games into his rookie season in 2017. After a year's worth of rehab, Cook was putting together an impressive sophomore campaign before suffering a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined for five games. In 11 games in the 2018 season, Cook rushed for 615 yards on 133 attempts. 

Both Freeman and Cook are healthy heading into the 2019 season and will assume their starting roles.

While the injuries to both of these players have provided hardship on every level, these setbacks don't even come close to resembling any of what they had to deal with growing up in the "pork and beans" – a slang term used to describe an area in Liberty City known for its high crime rate.

That's why moments like Sunday are so meaningful.

A reminder that while the road wasn't the easiest to overcome, it is possible with the right people leading the way.

"That's my brother for life," Freeman said of Cook. "We came from the same place, same situations. It's a respect thing. It's good when I can lead and guys follow. There's no better feeling than when you see guys you know coming from the same spot you come from continue to make it out and understand the opportunity that we have. It's a blessing to see Dalvin continue to grow and get better. It's all love."

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