Rookies toss fun into Cowboys’ serious pursuit of Super Bowl
FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott pelted fellow rookie Dak Prescott with straw wrappers and a spitball , and the Dallas quarterback tried to get his teammate to move along with an offer of candy.
Not that Prescott is innocent in such exchanges when reporters surround the lockers of these road-trip roommates. He’s been known to toss candy at Elliott when the new star running back of the Cowboys is answering questions.
Sure, Elliott’s the one who jumped into a jumbo Salvation Army red kettle during a game, drawing a penalty. But Prescott isn’t afraid to have a little fun as these first-year sensations try to lead a famed franchise to its first Super Bowl in 21 years.
They’re rubbing off on 14th-year tight end Jason Witten, too.
“Just energy,” said Prescott, whose playoff debut with the NFC-leading Cowboys (13-3) will be Jan. 15 at home. “If he’s got it, I’m going to have it. If I’ve I got it, he’s going to pick it up from me. Kind of just giving each other energy, giving this team energy. And having fun, being able to separate fun and business.”
Elliott is clearly the ringleader, thus the kettle stunt and his voracious consumption of cereal in a team-produced video, an exaggeration of the “feed me” gesture that Elliott flashes every time he gets a first down.
When Prescott scores a touchdown, he doesn’t do much beyond pointing skyward in honor of his mother, who died of cancer when he was at Mississippi State. And when Elliott told his quarterback before the game against Tampa Bay that he was pondering the kettle jump, Prescott steered clear of giving him a yay or a nay.
Does Prescott have a class clown on his hands? He won’t go that far.
“He’s fun,” Prescott said. “But when it’s time to lock in, get in that film room, get out on the field, he definitely does that better than anyone.”
Enter the serious-minded Witten, by far the leading voice in the locker room after Prescott’s record-setting season relegated Tony Romo, the 10-year starter and Witten’s best friend, to the backup role.
Not only did Witten easily accept the changing roles at quarterback, fans might just see him joining a pre-game dance with his young teammates. Ever so briefly.
“Just the way it’s gone and to be able to have this opportunity to impact young players in such a positive way and the way they’re playing is remarkable,” Witten said. “It’s fun to watch and be a part of it.
“You understand that every moment is really precious in that how all-in you are to it. That’s something I’ve been thinking about and they have put a smile on my face and they energize you in a lot of ways.”
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan believes Prescott and Elliott would have the same rapport even if circumstances hadn’t thrust Prescott into a starring role alongside his running back, who carried the expectations of a No. 4 overall pick.
Prescott was a fourth-round choice expected to be the No. 3 quarterback all year. Only after injuries to backup Kellen Moore and Romo did the Cowboys consider starting him, and that was after he had shown some promise in the preseason.
“They’ve both got real unique, really great personalities,” Linehan said. “I would think if they were teammates in college or just passing friends, they would be pretty good buddies I think. I feel that our whole rookie class has been good that way. I’ve noticed them doing a lot of things together. So that’s a good sign.”
Now they have their weekly interviews with reporters on the same day about a dozen lockers apart, one usually waiting for the other so all the cameras can get both.
“I think everyone on this team is loose,” said Elliott, the NFL rushing champion with 1,631 yards. “We’re going to have fun. In a season that’s so long, it can get a little hectic. But just the fact that we can keep each other loose and have fun with what we’re doing just makes it better to go day by day.”
Success, of course, has to be a big part of the formula. Otherwise, who would notice? And it’s hard not to notice the first quarterback-running back tandem in NFL history with 20 touchdown passes (Prescott with 23) and 15 touchdowns rushing (Elliott’s 15).
That’s after they were the first rookie QB-RB combo to start the season opener for Dallas since Roger Staubach and Calvin Hill in 1969.
“I don’t really look at them as rookies anymore,” Witten said. “The lights have been bright for quite some time for them and they just continue to answer the bell. They understand these are the bright lights and the thing I respect about them the most is they come to work.”
But they find time to play.