FRISCO, Texas – If truth really is stranger than fiction, Dak Prescott’s divisional-round playoff return to the site of his first NFL snap — Los Angeles — beats most Hollywood scripts.
Not that Prescott is getting sentimental this week.
The third-year quarterback hasn’t really thought about his career coming full circle this Saturday when the Cowboys take on the NFC’s second-seeded Rams. Two years ago last August, Prescott turned heads — including those in the Dallas front office — with a nearly-flawless performance against the Rams in the preseason opener at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
Now he’s got a chance to lead the Cowboys to the NFC Championship game for the first time since January 1996, when he was two and a half years old.
“I don’t know if that holds a special place,” Prescott said of his pro debut at the Coliseum. “Obviously that was a special game, a special moment just for it to be my first reps in the NFL, to be able to go out there and have the performance that I did. But it being preseason, that being two years ago, it doesn’t really matter right now.”
At the time, it was the first truly tangible evidence that the Cowboys had found a potential successor to longtime starter Tony Romo. With Romo taking the night off, Prescott – the team’s fourth-round draft pick four months earlier — completed 10 of 12 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns for a 154.5 rating.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones remembers Prescott’s first of two touchdowns — a 10-yard back-shoulder throw to Dez Bryant in the first quarter — not so much for the play itself but the Cowboys’ sideline reaction.
Sitting next to Jones, fellow Hall of Famer Michael Irvin noticed first.
“I said, ‘My goodness, what an excellent play by that young quarterback,’” Jones recalled on 105.3 The Fan. “And Michael looked at me and said, ‘That’s not what I’m looking at. Look at your bench over there. Every player out there is about two feet out on the field cheering and living in his every footstep. This team is really behind this guy.’”
Linebacker Sean Lee agreed.
“I think it was just the whole atmosphere of seeing him play for the first time and the poise that he displayed as a young guy, first game, playing like he did,” Lee said. “And then just the talent he had to be able to make the throws, to be as savvy as he was as such a young guy. It was like, ‘Wow, this guy’s pretty talented.’ And then from there he just continued to take off.”
A season-ending injury to Kellen Moore had moved Prescott into the No. 2 spot early in training camp. Two weeks later, Prescott would take over the starting job for good when Romo suffered a back injury. Quite a leap for a rookie who opened training camp splitting third-team reps.
The rest, of course, is history.
Prescott and his teammates are looking to make more history Saturday.
“I guess I couldn’t imagine it being back in the Coliseum against the team I started off
my career, but I’ve always talked about the confidence I’ve had in myself and this team,” he said. “Nothing has changed.”