Behind The Scoreboard
The emergence of Dak Prescott will go down in history as one of the most surprising storylines of the 2016 NFL season.
Let’s rewind. At Mississippi State, Rayne Dakota “Dak” Prescott proved himself to be an excellent college quarterback in 2014. Prescott broke all sorts of school records (4,435 yards of total offense, 27 touchdown passes with 61.6 completion percentages). He was named a finalist for the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Manning, and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards. In his first season as a full-time starter in 2014, Dak led the Bulldogs to a 10-3 regular season record, its first No. 1 ranking in program history, and led them to the Orange Bowl. The two-time (2014, 2015) first team All-SEC pick ended up with 38 school records. He won the Senior Class Award as the top scholar-athlete on and off the field.
Fast forward – this young quarterback has gone from a third-string rookie taken in the fourth-round pick to the starter on arguably the best team in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys.
Prescott was not the Cowboys’ first choice in the draft. Jerry Jones tried twice to trade up for other quarterbacks but was unable to get the deals done. In all, seven quarterbacks were taken in the 2016 NFL Draft before Prescott’s name was called with the 135th pick.
So, how is Dak Prescott doing in his early career in the NFL? During the preseason, the Cowboys’ coaches noticed how good the rookie looked in the relief of Tony Romo. One of the coaches went on to say that “Romo’s injury would offer a rare chance for a rookie to get first-team reps.” The coaches thought maybe Dak could be Romo’s primary back-up. But Romo was hurt again. The Cowboys’ officials weren’t talking about life after Romo in late August but they were certainly thinking about it.
It is November 15 and now it’s official.
Romo is healed after suffering a compression fracture in his back and he’s ready to return. But only one problem, the kid (Prescott) has not let up. Prescott has led the Cowboys to an 8-1 record and first place in the NFC East.
After Dak and Ezekiel Elliott orchestrated a stunning comeback victory in Pittsburgh, Jones said, “Romo would be Prescott’s back-up upon his return to the active roster.”
And besides, Prescott is playing too well for the team to make any changes this late into the season.
But all the while, Dak would always say “this is Tony’s team. I knew that going into the situation. I think everybody knew that. I’m just trying to do the best I can to give my team a chance to win week in and week out.”
Here are some excerpts from the heartfelt speech Romo gave to concede the job to Dak.
“He’s earned the right to be our quarterback, Romo said. “As hard as that is for me to say, he’s earned that right. He’s guided our team to an 8-1 record, and that’s hard to do.”
He continued, “I was that kid once, stepping in, having to prove myself. I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. It really is an incredible time in your life. And if I remember one thing from back then, it’s the people who helped me along when I was young.”
“And if I can be that to Dak, you know, I’ve tried to be and I will be going forward. We all know something magical is happening to our team. I’m not going to allow this situation to negatively affect Dak or this football team by becoming a constant distraction. I think Dak knows that I have his back. And I think I know that he has mine. Ultimately, it’s about the team. It’s what we’ve preached our entire lives.”