It was Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril who set the wheels in motion for a season of surprising change and success in Dallas.
It was his hit on quarterback Tony Romo during the third preseason game, resulting in a fracture bone in his back and the subsequent emergence of rookie quarterback Dak Prescott.
Prescott took the field on third play of the game against the Seahawks and never looked back, turning in one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history, earning a berth in the Pro Bowl while leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 mark.
Avril wants no credit for the franchise-altering events in Dallas, but he does appreciate the way Prescott has made the most of his opportunity.
"I don't ever want to injury somebody and put somebody else in there," Avril said. "But Dak took full advantage of the opportunity. He has been killing it ever since."
Avril, who earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after recording a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2016, has spent the week getting to know Prescott and has come away very impressed.
He said Prescott compares very favorably to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in his passion for the game and work ethic.
"Just talking to him the last couple of days you can see why he has been so successful," Avril said. "He's a lot more mature than you expect him to be. His passion for winning is crazy. It's cool to see. It's cool to be around him. It's cool to hear how he thinks. He is like Russell as you can see the passion they both have for winning and that's going to continue to get better. I can see him doing great things in this league.”