Dak Prescott’s celebrity status grows by the minute with the Dallas Cowboys.
This off-season has seen him draw thousands of kids to camps in three cities, be featured on national TV interviews, win awards and sign several endorsement deals.
It’s hard to imagine that less than a year ago Prescott simply hoped to make a favorable impression on the Cowboys as a fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State.
As a rookie going into his first training camp, Prescott found himself with limited reps behind Tony Romo and projected backup Kellen Moore. That all changed when Moore broke his ankle on Aug. 2.
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Prescott finished Moore’s reps that day, took the first-team reps the following day with Romo off and hasn’t looked back since.
“It was just about stepping up,” Prescott said on Monday as the Cowboys had their first training camp practice.
“It was an opportunity that happened unfortunately and all I could think of at that moment was to just take advantage of it.”
Prescott more than took advantage of it and had convinced the team he could be the fill-in starter when Romo went down a few weeks later in Seattle. Prescott took the starting reins after that and never relinquished them.
Prescott put together one of the best seasons by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. He led the Cowboys to a 13-3 record with 3,667 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 104.9 passer rating.
Prescott believes he has a lot more room to grow, too, and spent time leading into training camp with renowned athletic trainer Tom Shaw at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
“I’m only one year in, so there’s a lot that I can get better at,” Prescott said. “There’s more reps that I’ll encounter. There’s a lot more defensive looks that will come my way. So it’s a lot that I can get better at knowledge-wise.
“I can get my footwork better. I can get better from dropping back from under the center. Better accuracy. So it’s not one thing that I’m going to point out and say I need to work on, this is what I can get better at. I just need to get better all together at the quarterback position.”
It’s that drive that has his teammates and Cowboys brass excited for Year 2.
“The sky’s the limit for him,” wide receiver Terrance Williams said. “He’s just a guy who likes to get better day in and day out.”
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said Prescott has an “insatiable appetite” to become the best.
The organization saw that early on after selecting him in the fourth round. They didn’t know he would take the NFL by storm as he did, but they became more and more comfortable with handing him the keys as the preseason progressed.
When Moore went down, the Cowboys considered finding a more veteran quarterback to fill the void. But they struck out with that type of approach in 2015 with Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Moore combining to win only one of 11 games in which they started.
So why not give the young kid a chance?
“Obviously, we probably had a little bad taste in our mouth from the year before and we just decided, ‘Hey, we looked around the league at some people who had done it well — New England and the Packers — who just commit to develop young quarterbacks,’ ” Jones said. “We were really reluctant of paying a backup quarterback who, at the end of the day, is probably not going to do a whole lot for you for a lot of money. We’ll probably be in that mode for a while now.”
It’s amazing to think how an organizational philosophy can change in less than a year. But Prescott is to thank for that.
He’s ready to take his game to another level too.
“I don’t really sense other people, outsiders’ expectations or their pressure,” Prescott said. “To me, it’s all about what I put on myself. I think I put more pressure and high expectations on myself than anyone else has. I know in this organization we have high expectations as a team as well.
“I don’t think me or any of these guys really pay attention to outside of our locker room. We know what we have to do. We know what it’s going to take.”