Florida State running back Dalvin Cook said his life has changed considerably since he was accused of punching a woman outside a Tallahassee bar last summer.
Cook, who spoke with ESPN.com, said after the incident he stopped going out to bars and putting himself in places or positions that might negatively impact himself or Florida State.
While he said he couldn’t talk specifics about the incident on June 23 that led to his arrest and suspension, he did say it was misconstrued.
“It was just an altercation,” Cook told ESPN.com. “Nothing physical. I wasn't even the one arguing. I was the one trying to calm everyone down. Nobody touched anybody."
Cook was ultimately found not guilty and reinstated.
Cook, who maintained his innocence all along, said he understood why Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher had to suspend him. He said it became an instant lesson for him and his teammates about how quickly and easily the game could be taken away.
Cook, who said he was raised by his grandmother and has great respect for his mother and sisters, said he doesn’t condone violence against women and he didn’t want to be associated with that image.
"I was so ready to clean up my image. Like, that's not me," Cook told ESPN.com. "I was ready to show everybody that ain't me, and I'm the type of guy you can look up to on the field. I wanted to clean my image up and show everybody that's not Dalvin."
Cook’s arrest came on the heels of the dismissal of quarterback De'Andre Johnson, who was caught on video punching a woman at a bar. Also, questions continue to linger about former quarterback Jameis Winston and his role in an alleged sexual assault of a former female student.
However, since Cook’s arrest, Florida State has had no player arrests and few off-field incidents.
Now, Cook just wants to get back to playing football. He spent most of last season dealing with various leg injuries, but still set a single-season school record with 1,691 yards and he added 19 rushing touchdowns. He wasn’t invited to the Heisman ceremony and he doesn’t know whether his off-field issues played a role in that. Still, he’s hopeful this coming season will be one free of distractions so he can make it to New York.
"There's another level I can go to," Cook said.
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