Mac Engel

Already busy, all Dak has to do is save the Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott greeted Salvation Army volunteers on Tuesday at The Star as part of a promotion.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott greeted Salvation Army volunteers on Tuesday at The Star as part of a promotion. AP

The owner/general manager has declared war against NFL and its commissioner, the star running back is reportedly out of the country to train Rocky IV-style while serving his suspension, the best wide receiver remains our lovable crazy uncle, which leaves Dak Prescott as the only adult in the room.

He’s 24.

“Do I think an athlete ought to be a role model? Yeah, it’s important,” Dak said in the very rare one-on-one interview on Tuesday morning at The Star. “We’ve got this platform and this situation that we’re in so it’s important for us to do the right things so that the future (generations) can look up to us and say, ‘That’s who I want to be.’ ”

This guy is good. Please, God, let this hold up. He’s one of the few in this organization who seem to grasp people are watching.

In his first game without his best offensive player, Ezekiel Elliott, and his All-Pro left tackle, Tyron Smith, Dak was rushed into the part of tackling dummy last Sunday at Atlanta. How Dak is not dead after the Falcons turned The A-T-L into S-A-K Town is one of the more impressive achievements of a young career already loaded with superlatives.

How he handles life without his running back and left tackle is another hurdle that his predecessor navigated. Except swift, irrational, judgment to follow.

In the meantime, add this the list of Dak’s responsibilities: one-man offense, PR pitchman and full-time role model. He’s running from none of them.

The only reason this interview was setup was so he could promote his relationship with Tostitos and the Salvation Army. Dak’s commercial with Tostitos and the Salvation Army will debut on Thanksgiving Day when the Cowboys host the L.A. Chargers.

During his rookie season, Dak was repeatedly approached for endorsement and late-night opportunities. His stock answer was, “Later.” In his second season, the answer changed.

Dak has endorsement deals with New Era caps, Beats by Dre, Campbell’s Chunky Soup, Pepsi, 7-Eleven, Nicholas Air and now Tostitos. And DirecTV. And Panini America.

There are more offers. He’s just said no.

“It’s been a lot, at times,” he said.

Does he want to be a Peyton Manning-type, who pitched everything from insurance to credit cards and reportedly could have endorsed virtually any product he desired?

“I do,” Dak said. “As long as I am doing it the right way.”

The right way is this: Dak’s left tackle (and head coach) don’t get him killed. And the Cowboys win.

“(The commercials) were more in the off-season, when I didn’t have football,” he said. “That was the time I wanted to reach out and make those relationships. Now it’s about football and balancing the two. And using my platform and using it the right way so I am focused 100 percent on football. The moment I go to (the practice facility), it’s all football.”

Cliche, but that’s what they all do. When someone is begging to give you six figures, that’s a hard no. Dak is making considerably more as a pitchman than his NFL base salary of $540,000. Good for him. Cash in while you can.

Dak says balancing the increased off-the-field responsibility with the preparation has been easier, only because his schedule is so set.

The trick now is to maintain this literal Money Train while winning games.

Dak is 18-7 in his first season-plus in the NFL, but the current set of circumstances is nothing like he has seen since he came to the Cowboys.

He doesn’t have Zeke. Smith did not practice on Wednesday, but at least coach Jason Garrett admitted that he has to give whoever is lined up at left tackle more help than he did on Sunday in Atlanta. Chaz Green was offered no help at left tackle, which allowed Dak the chance to make his case to be a spokesman for Goalrilla Tackling Dummies.

And linebacker Sean Lee left the game with a hamstring injury, thereby making the entire defense more vulnerable.

The Cowboys will host the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night and, four days later, the Los Angeles Chargers.

These are the types of situations Tony Romo routinely dealt with in his career as the starting quarterback.

These are the types of situations when the Cowboys asked Romo to to wear a cape and carry the team. The end results were not always wins. Romo nearly killed himself trying and in the process he kept the team relevant.

How Dak performs without all of these reliable star players surrounding him will be another defining measure of him as a player.

“I know it’s just talk. I’m going to play the way I play, and prepare the way I prepare regardless of who is talking good or bad,” Dak said. “My expectations and my standards are higher than anyone else’s. All I care about is doing everything I can to give those men a chance to win the game.

“The he said/she said media talk, if anything, it’s just motivation.”

Since Dak walked through the door at The Star, the talk has been nothing but glowing because the Cowboys have won.

He’s never dealt with this set of circumstances before. For the sake of the Cowboys and his career as endorser, this thing can’t go over the edge.

We need this to work.

After all, he’s the only adult in the room.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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