Dak’s Story Of Adversity & Resilience
By Martin Rogers
Life is not fair and football, the most rugged, toughest, most ferocious team sport of all, definitely isn’t fair. What happened to Dak Prescott on Sunday, the time-stopping moment that made the National Football League put aside all team allegiances to send well-wishes to a fallen star, might have been the polar opposite of fair.
Yet as the chatter gets jumbled and distracted and pulled away from the stark fact that a young man of strength and physicality was left floored, his ankle pointed askew, as he went about doing his job, just know this ... Sunday, for all the visuals so awful that you should be thankful if you haven’t seen it, wasn’t the worst day of Dak Prescott’s life.
Even as tears slipped down the Dallas Cowboys quarterback’s face and his teeth clenched, as he buried his face in a towel and let out a goosebumps-inducing raised fist as he was stretched off; he has felt worse and been through worse.
For Prescott has lived several of life’s most gut-punch challenges and has emerged from them with class, maturity and no small measure of resiliency. Those things haven’t made him Superman, yet they’ve given him a sense of perspective beyond his 27 years.
Enough, perhaps, to make him already realize what his compound fracture really was - a horrible, terrible, sickening moment - but not a tragedy. Because he knows what real tragedy looks like.
In late 2013, Prescott felt it when his beloved mother Peggy, who raised three boys with love and togetherness at a Louisiana trailer park, died of colon cancer. Prescott was trying to make his way at Mississippi State at the time, but still got home enough to see the pain of her battle, and it has never left him.
In April this year, Prescott’s brother Jace – who taught him to throw a football and gave him mammoth bear hugs and pushed him to always be better – committed suicide at age 31.
“Our adversities, our struggles, what we go through is always going to be too much for ourselves and maybe too much for even one or two people,” Prescott said in an interview with Graham Bensinger earlier this year. “But never too much for a community or too much for people in the family that you love. So, you have to share these things.”
Prescott dealt with the challenge of mental illness in the wake of Jace’s loss, then, cognizant of his position as the highest profile player on America’s most-talked about team, used that status to shed further light on a condition that still isn’t talked about enough and retains an incorrect, inappropriate stigma.
And, while the incomparable summer of 2020 raged, he added his voice to the discussion on social justice with thoughtfulness and intelligence.
Any NFL player who sustained such an injury would receive an outpouring of support, but for Prescott, an even bigger wave came because of his story. How he has come from being a fourth-round draft pick to being a top-level QB, setting passing records through the Cowboys poor season and who gamely backed himself in a contract standoff with upper management.
“I was in disbelief,” FOX Sports football analyst and former NFL QB Michael Vick told Undisputed. “I actually shed a tear because I thought about Dak’s road traveled. This will be a time for him to step back, regroup, refresh, think of 2020 as a learning experience and get ready for 2021. I felt it in 2003 when I broke my ankle and my teammates rallied around me.”
The position Prescott holds in the locker room was evident by the stunned reactions of his colleagues. There were heads in hands, anguished faces. Former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett came over from the Giants sideline.
Finally, after Prescott had left to be replaced by Andy Dalton, the Cowboys rallied behind their injured comrade to secure a 37-34 win.
“I just told the group of guys it’s going to take all of us,” running back Ezekiel Elliott told reporters. “We’re going to have to make a play to make sure we win this for No. 4, and that’s what happened. We all did.”
The speed of Prescott’s recovery is not a referendum on his willpower. There have been outstanding individuals, humans of the highest character, who were unable to come back from injuries because of a multitude of reasons. Not all physical setbacks, even of the same type, are created equal.
The human body, and the medical science that seeks to remedy its problems, is complicated enough that the 4-6 month window being reported should be treated as a generic indicator only at this stage.
But as an upbeat photo posted from the hospital with his eldest brother Tad emerged, the future remained uncertain but the messaging was clear.
Sunday’s injury was enough to make Prescott cry. It was almost certainly enough to end his season. And it was categorically enough to get the football world talking about contracts and franchise tags and what Dallas will do next and how much money the injury might cost him.
Yet it wasn’t enough to defeat him.