FRISCO, Texas — As the Dallas Cowboys kept winning early in 2016, Dak Prescott was asked if this was his team or Tony Romo’s seemingly weekly.
Early on, the then-rookie quarterback insisted the Cowboys were Romo’s team, a nod to the veteran quarterback’s experience and status. Once it became clear the Cowboys were sticking with Prescott, he said it was everybody’s team, a nod to his inclusive nature of lifting up everybody on the roster.
As he enters his third season, it is clear the Cowboys are truly Prescott’s team.
With the retirement of Jason Witten and the release of Dez Bryant, Prescott has become the face of the franchise. He has the endorsement deals with Frito-Lay, Pepsi, Oikos and others, but what makes him the leader goes beyond the position he plays and his ability to accept the successes and failures on the field.
“You have to make it important to have a relationship with almost anybody,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “It’s easy for a quarterback to be on the offensive side and kind of stay in his lane and do all that stuff. But I’ve said this a number times, there’s never really a time during the course of the day that he doesn’t make sure that he has some kind of, I don’t know exchange or conversation, appearance with everybody. He knows it’s important that he shows the whole team that that’s as important to him as the offense. Yeah, I think he has to work at that but he also embraces that and really enjoys it.”
Prescott has been at The Star almost every day since the captains’ workouts began a month before the official start of the offseason program. That came after a stint of workouts in southern California that helped him drop 10 pounds.
Almost every day he threw passes to Lance Lenoir and Noah Brown, rookies a year ago who combined for four catches in 2017. He has made it a point to work extra with new receivers, Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson. In Wednesday’s organized team activity, he made sure to praise a receiver or tight end for running a good route.
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Also on Wednesday, there was a barely perceptible moment between Prescott and Sean Lee, the acknowledged defensive leader. Lee is working off to the side in the OTAs in order to keep himself fresh for when the season starts, but as he walked on to the field, Prescott gave him a quick fist-bump, almost as an acknowledgment that they are in this together.
“We can’t say, ‘We need you to be the leader Dez was,’ or ‘Be the leader Witten was,’” Prescott said. “We have a lot guys and lot of guys who have been in this league that lead. And sometimes they lead by just by example. By going out there and not saying a word and giving all their energy and it pays off and shows. Young guys can look and say that is the way you practice. That is the way you come in and handle your business. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything to do it. And we have those guys. And we have the rah-rah guys, the guys who are screaming, the guys that are getting everybody going to make sure the energy is there.”
Hurns signed with the Cowboys in March before the offseason program started, but it did not take long for him to feel Prescott’s presence.
“Dak is the guy that’s surprised me when I first got here,” Hurns said. “Just being Year 3, you don’t see that leadership from those guys. Yeah, he a quarterback. He had to grow up early but he’s a very vocal leader. And he’s one that leads by example as well. In the weight room, on the field, during conditioning, he’s wanting to be first. That surprised me a lot. With Witten gone, yeah, he’s a bigger leader for us. He’s going to be truly missed but I think Dak got it all under control, being the head man in charge.”
The Cowboys won’t ask Prescott to lead alone. Lee will step more into a team-wide role with Witten gone as well. Ezekiel Elliott said he will be more vocal. The offensive linemen, led by Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, lead more with their actions than words. Jason Garrett called Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence and Jeff Heath leaders on the team, too.
Prescott has been something of an old soul since coming to the Cowboys in 2016, but he is still more than two months shy of his 25th birthday.
“I wouldn’t say I am one of the vet guys, but for Tyron (at 27) to be the oldest guy on offense says a lot,” Prescott said. “That is pretty amazing and pretty young in itself. It brings that energy though. It allows us to come out there with a lot of juice, just having fun, getting to know each other and being with each other.”