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Dak Prescott's resiliency is the ray of light inside the Cowboys’ dark moment

Charles Robinson
·NFL columnist
·6-min read

As the NFL was spilling over with shock, sadness and hopeful wishes for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott on Sunday night, he was laying in a hospital bed in Dallas. Flanked by his brother, Tad, and preparing for surgery on his compound fractured ankle, Prescott was already getting on with the business of getting on.

There aren’t many positive ways to frame this season’s ugliest injury, but this is one: If there is anything we have learned about Rayne Dakota Prescott, he is an irrepressibly buoyant human being.

That is the ray of light penetrating Sunday’s dark cloud for the Cowboys and their franchise quarterback. It’s something positive for a franchise that has lost an unquestionably important player and a player who has lost an unquestionably important season. Neither wanted to be in this situation, but 2020 has been cruel that way. This year has repeatedly taught us that resiliency is our greatest and most underrated natural resource.

Dak Prescott lifts his fist on the back of a cart with an air cast on his right leg.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott lifts his fist as he is carted off the field after suffering a fractured and dislocated ankle against the New York Giants on Sunday. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Prescott has that trait as a person and a football player, and we’re about to find out that it’s just as important as arm strength, vision or longevity. If you don’t believe that, you missed the Washington Football Team’s Alex Smith taking his first regular-season snap since 2018 on Sunday. Smith defied so many who believed his career ended after one of the worst leg injuries in NFL history.

That Smith came back after years of physical therapy on the same day as Prescott’s grim injury reminds us of the cyclical and brutal nature of the sport. It also reminds us that while no football players are built to suffer injuries like theirs, some are definitely constructed to overcome them. And in the process, they become the rejuvenating end points of journeys that had bottomed into some very low moments.

Dak Prescott’s strength in face of tragedy

As one member of Prescott’s inner circle texted on Sunday night, his fractured ankle is “just part of the epic story.”

You might roll your eyes at that sentiment and think it’s another trite cliche about a football player. But if you’ve been around Prescott these past few years and saw the photo Tad posted of him smiling from his hospital bed, you know it’s attainable. Tad guaranteed that Dak would be back stronger than ever and promised to continue helping him fight.

It served as a reminder of the strength Prescott has shown us before in a litany of ways — as a son who lost his mother to cancer; as a sibling who lost his brother to suicide; as a community leader who found a voice off the field; and as a football player who spent the better part of the last decade fighting into a position many thought he could achieve.

This is part of what has made Prescott so special inside the Cowboys organization and the NFL at large. His personality and charisma have made him unquestionably likable among his teammates and other football peers. Fans respond to him. Coaches love him. Even other stars have gravitated toward him as he has climbed into the upper echelon of the league’s quarterbacks.

If there was any doubt, the wave of social media emotion pointed toward Prescott should have ended it. There was also the snapshot of the Cowboys’ ownership box, where team vice president Stephen Jones could be seen consoling his sister, Charlotte, while team owner Jerry Jones stood by with his arms crossed in likely disbelief.

Down on the field, former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett made his way over from the opposing sideline and patted the back of his Dallas replacement, Mike McCarthy, as the two men looked on in grief. In the ensuing moments, a CBS television shot panned across stunned Dallas players who all congregated around Prescott when he was placed onto a cart and taken out of a season for the first time in his professional football career.

As the cart motored away, you could see Prescott crying before he raised a fist to the Dallas crowd — a scene that undoubtedly conjured a lump into the throat of many football fans. It was one of the unforgiving moments that tend to make even the nastiest of rival fans feel some pangs of sympathy, if only because they understand what it means when good teammates catch bad breaks.

Aldon Smith pats Dak Prescott on the shoulder as Prescott covers his face with a towel.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Aldon Smith comforts quarterback Dak Prescott as he is carted off the field after suffering a fractured and dislocated ankle on Sunday. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Eventually, that cart snaked through the bowels of AT&T Stadium and Prescott was whisked away to the hospital. The game went on as NFL games always do, even in midst of the worst injuries. The Cowboys eventually won with backup Andy Dalton at the helm, delivering a bittersweet result and reminding everyone that this whole show now moves on.

Jerry Jones: ‘No doubt that he will return to the position of leadership’

As Jerry Jones put it in a late Sunday night statement, “I know this young man very well. I know the personal hardship and strife that he has faced, dealt with and overcome in his young life. And I know of no one who is more prepared, from the perspective of mental and emotional toughness and determination, than Dak Prescott to respond and recover from this challenge that has been put in front of him. He is an inspiration to everyone he touches. He has all of our love and support. And we have no doubt that he will return to the position of leadership and purpose that he brings to our team.”

Those were important words of support from Jones. Soon enough, questions will be raised about what happens now with Prescott, not just with his injury timeline, but also the contract negotiation that has tied his relationship to Dallas to a year-by-year franchise tag schedule.

Sunday night should have been too early to get into that kind of business, but Monday morning will be awash in it. There will be speculation about what happens with Prescott’s future and what kind of opportunity is at hand for Dalton, including how all of that will impact this team moving forward.

Somewhere, Dak Prescott will be on the mend in his hospital bed, preparing to do what he has always done when his life or career has delivered the low moments.

Get up.

Lean forward.

Bounce back.

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