James Cook Sr. lived for moments like the one that's all set to unfold during this week's NFL draft.
"It's going to be a big party, lots of family and friends, definitely," said Betty Cook, aka Miss Betty, who is James Sr.'s mom and grandmother to Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and Georgia's soon-to-be-drafted running back James Cook Jr.
"I told Dalvin the other day, 'You know your dad is in heaven smiling down on us right now, don't you? He'll be with us.' Two of my grandsons in the NFL. Amazing. Absolutely amazing."
The family has rented a hall near the homestead in Miami for Friday night, when James Jr. is expected to be selected in either the second or third round. James Sr., who died in December 2020 from complications with diabetes at 46, had been looking forward to this night, just like 2017, when the Vikings selected Dalvin in the second round.
"All my friends are saying, 'You know the Dolphins are taking James, right?' " Miss Betty said. "They say, 'Get ready. You never been a Dolphins fan, but James is coming.' I said, 'Well, I was never a Minnesota Vikings fan, but I am now.' "
The first thing Miss Betty will do when James Jr. is drafted? Check to see if that team plays the Vikings this season.
"I'm going to get one of those jerseys that are half Minnesota Vikings and half whichever team James ends up with," she said. "It'll be the number four, too."
Miss Betty laughed at that last part. She had just been trying to explain her family tree's obsession with No. 4.
"You know, I'm not really sure what it is about that number, but everybody in the family has worn it or wears it, including my nephew Jaylen Johnson, who's in little league now," she said. "Dalvin's dad fell in love with that number. When Dalvin got drafted and showed up with No. 33, the first thing his dad asked him was, 'What are you doing with that number?' "
The NFL had restrictions on what numbers players at each position could wear back then. The league loosened the rules last year. Dalvin thought about switching then but was told by the league that he would have to buy all the unsold No. 33 jerseys with his name on them. Price tag: $1.5 million.
"He told me that and I went crazy," Miss Betty said. "I said, 'Are you serious?' I know Dalvin makes good money but to pay the NFL that much for a jersey number, that would make me feel like …"
"Yeah," Miss Betty said with a laugh. "That's the perfect word for it."
Dalvin wore No. 4 at Miami Central High School and at Florida State. And now, after five years of Vikings teammates calling him "No. 4," he'll finally have the jersey to match. The jersey his dad always adored.
"Mentally, I'm better in that number," Dalvin said. "It's better for my family and for everybody [in Minnesota]. They're going to see a version of me they've never seen before. You're going to see something special."
The first No. 4 in the family
Naturally, James Jr. wore No. 4 at Georgia, where he helped the Bulldogs to the national title last season while sharing the backfield with fellow hot draft prospect Zamir White. A 5-11, 190-pounder, James runs a 4.42 40-yard dash, averaged 6.5 yards per carry over 46 games and is a gifted receiver out of the backfield and split out wide.
"James and Dalvin are similar players," said their older brother, Deandre Burnett, who took their mother Varondria's maiden name. "Great jump cut, great hands, nightmare matchups."
Deandre, 28, stopped playing football at 16 to focus on a basketball career that took him to the University of Miami and University of Mississippi and then overseas. He played in the British Basketball League and the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague before joining the police academy in Coral Springs near Miami in February.
Deandre also is the reason Dalvin started playing football. And the reason he started wearing No 4.
"[Deandre] wore No. 4 and was like a hero in my eyes when I seen him play football," Dalvin said. "He switched sports, so I carried the legacy of No. 4 on, passed it to my little brother and on to my little cousins. It's like a tradition in my family."
Like Miss Betty, Deandre can't seem to explain what it is about that number and why it means so much to the family.
"That's just the way it was," he said. "Everyone knew growing up that the best player at Risco Park wore No. 4. I was 8 years old playing with Dalvin, who was 6, on the Carol City Chiefs in the Optimist League.
"I was the first No. 4 in our family. Played quarterback and linebacker. Except my first year when I was with the Bunche Park Cowboys. That year, Teddy Bridgewater was the quarterback and I was the receiver."
Two 'very special, special players'
Deandre and Dalvin lived in the same house until Dalvin reached seventh grade and moved about 20 minutes away to his dad's house so he could attend Miami Central.
"My last year playing football, I was 16 and Dalvin was 14," Deandre said. "I was back with the Bunche Park Cowboys. Dalvin played for the Scott Lake Vikings, which I guess was a sign."
By this time, Dalvin was wearing No. 4.
"We played each other that year," Deandre said. "Dalvin ran a sweep near the goal line. I could hit pretty hard. I crushed him. He scored on the play, but he always said that might have been the toughest he ever been hit."
That hit has become legendary in family gatherings.
"I saw the hit," Miss Betty said. "If Deandre kept playing football, he'd be in the NFL, too. He'd be somebody's quarterback."
"Nah," said Deandre. "I'd be somebody's safety.
"But that's OK. Dalvin and James are two very special, special players. I always knew they both were going to be better than me. I always wanted them to be better than me in football."
Dalvin is still too young and competitive to let James Jr. pass him by. But that doesn't mean he isn't helping his younger brother through the transition from college to the NFL.
He said that he talked to James every day and that they had been staying together through the draft process.
"In workouts, I push him, he push me," Dalvin said. "That's probably the best thing, having your little brother in your workouts. He's not going to beat me. That's the mind-set I have."
Deandre and Dalvin will be there Friday praying an NFL team takes their little brother. Miss Betty also hopes that team has a certain number set aside for James Jr.
"I'm extremely proud of him and Dalvin because they've worked so hard and proven themselves," Miss Betty said. "Now if both of them can wear their dad's favorite number four in the NFL, that'll be one of the best feelings."