Dak Prescott has had one of the more unique starts to a career than anyone I can remember. Drafted out of Mississippi State in the fourth round, the Dallas Cowboys had to think they were simply acquiring a project that could be groomed behind Tony Romo. Their backup quarterback situation had been dicey for years, and Romo was someone that clearly needed a backup as he would routinely be injured.
As it happens, multiple quarterback injuries would spark Prescott’s career.
First, it was losing Kellen Moore for the season during training camp that pushed Prescott into the No. 2 role. Most, even himself, likely assumed that’s where it would end. Even if Romo were to get hurt, there’s no way he would lose his job to a rookie.
Despite playing arguably the most pressure-filled position in sports, for one of the most pressure-filled franchises, and an owner that expects excellence every year, Dak stepped into a preseason game after Romo went down and looked like a grizzled veteran. He lost his first career start to the New York Giants, then ripped off nine wins in a row before Romo was ruled healthy enough to come back. At that point, Prescott had a stranglehold on the position.
He was so good, not even Romo’s connection with Jerry Jones was enough to unseat Dak as the starter.
Playing well for America’s team makes you an instant hero to so many. It comes with the expectation of signing autographs. Dak can recall his first ever autograph request even to this day.
From the Sports Illustrated story:
During Dak Prescott’s junior year at Haughton High school in rural Louisiana, a young boy walked into the locker room before a football game. The boy asked Prescott for an autograph, and Prescott froze for a moment.
Standing at his kitchen counter at his home here on a recent off-day two weeks ago, Prescott chuckles at the memory now, his first autograph request making him more nervous than the boy asking for it. He has signed thousands of autographs since, both during his record-setting career at Mississippi State and as one of the bright young stars of the Dallas Cowboys. But that moment has stayed with him, a reminder of the feeling of a kind act for others.
“That was kind of the beginning,” Prescott said. “The first time I realized the impact I can have when someone looks up to me, that’s why I’ll never forget it.”
“It’s heartwarming to me that I can do so little and it will mean so much, I almost can’t even understand the process because it’s something so little to me, but so big to someone.”
His love for community and helping others is not just going through the motions. Dak has dealt with adversity in his life; he lost his mom to cancer when he was only 20 years old and still in college. You can see the impact he has on young fans, and he has developed a special bond with Kendrell Daniels, a 17-year-old senior at a Mississippi high school who was born with no arms.
Daniels was born without arms, and through a program at T.K. Martin called “EXPRESS Yourself!” he has begun to find himself. Since arriving there, Daniels has opened up and found confidence and a creative outlet through art. He’s considering attending Mississippi State to attend college, something he may never have done before the program. “It’s given me opportunities,” he said, “tools I can use, for what I would need to come to college.”
Daniels paints with his toes, and one of his pieces of art hangs in a foyer in Prescott’s house. Daniels began painting with the help of trackers – Laurie Craig and Duncan – but has evolved to where he paints on his own. Prescott met with Daniels at his camp this summer, as he’d hung up a piece of art Daniels made, initially not knowing who created it.
The moment stuck with Daniels, as he watches the video of his meeting with Prescott at least once a week. The moment also stuck with Prescott: “It allows me to take everything and all my blessings and put it in perspective,” he said. “Don’t take anything for granted. He uses his mind and heart and does something that he loves and draws and is an artist and was able to touch my life. It reminds me I have that impact.”
Prescott’s actions in the charitable space since his meteoric rise to stardom last season indicate a precocious empathy. Thousands of autographs later, Prescott hasn’t let go of the feeling of reciprocal joy he had delivering that first one.
“We feel like he’s been dropped from heaven,” said Charlotte Jones Anderson, the Cowboys’ executive vice president and chief brand officer. “To come in here like this with that poise and confidence and affection to know you can inspire people is rare. He’s not going to miss the opportunity to use it.
What is overwhelmingly clear about Prescott is he is using his platform for good and making real change within several communities. He started the Fight, Faith, Finish foundation after losing his mother to cancer. The proceeds from the foundation go to helping cancer research and families that have been affected by the disease.
He also has promoted Dak Ties and will do a press conference this Thursday wearing one. This organization also promotes cancer awareness. Dak knows the money he makes from the NFL, especially with the Cowboys, can be used for good and he’s excited to do it.
“It’s a blessing to have this platform,” he said. “To be at this stage at this position in my life to be able to connect and interact with so many people. So many kids and so many people with disadvantages. So many families that need help and just need loving and a smile. And I’ve accepted it. It’s a big responsibility but I love it.”