DALLAS — It's a homecoming Dak Prescott has been looking forward to since a brutal ankle injury ended his season early last year.
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback has the team at a 1-1 record as they begin a three-game home stretch at AT&T Stadium.
WFAA's Joe Trahan: I go back to Haughton, Louisiana, when I made that trip to your high school before your rookie season, and the coaches and the principals and everyone told me that you were this pied piper who always led the guys in the right direction, so I’m curious - even back then, Dak - what was the spark that compelled you to be a leader?
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott: We’re talking 15-, 16-year-old Dak, right? I think it’s just always been something that’s just been ingrained in me. It was important for me to make sure I was elevating and pushing other guys to be their best, and I knew I would be mine in the same sense.
Joe: How has your leadership style changed from when you were a rookie?
Dak: I think I’m just holding guys a little bit more accountable with my voice. Whether it’s a rep at practice and calling a guy out, saying "You weren’t giving it your all" or being honest about a guy, "Hey, we can’t do this right now. We can’t do this in a walkthrough. We need to be more focused here or there." It has come easier for me to do that, and I’m sure it’s the experience, and just everything that I’ve been through that allows me to be more vocal in that aspect.
Joe: When you were forced to take that step back because you were injured, I kind of think about Tom Brady, right? He took that step back and he came up with this "My body is my temple" thing. Anything similar for you, when you had to take that step back?
Dak: In a sense. I think you just realize how important (it is) - and you have to do everything with a purpose - when it’s eating, when it’s sleeping, when it’s going out in public - of how late you’re gonna be out, of whatever it is. You’ve gotta do everything with your body and your temple in mind. How am I gonna be my best tomorrow? I’m very purposeful and intentional in everything that I do.
Joe: When you talk about training camp, you’d come back from the ankle, we could see you looked great. But then you had the shoulder issue. Were you mad? Were you deflated? Take me back to that moment. What was happening when they had to shut you down?
Dak: Probably all of those feelings, just different days. Obviously mad early, I couldn’t believe it. But then I quickly learned and realized that I’m not in control of this. It really just needed rest. The more I battle against it, probably the less it’s going to heal. So, to just focus in on allowing the healing to take its process and do everything that I’m told and follow the plan and I’ll come out better from this. And I did.
Joe: You experienced profound loss earlier than you should have when your mom died when you were in college. I saw the tribute you did on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, it was very well done. It’s also been five months since Jace died. How are you coping with that loss?
Dak: Every day, they go through my head. And every day, I try to honor them in everything that I do. When I wake up in the morning, and on my way to work, I’m usually listening to books, and there’s usually different things in those books that bring up either my mom or my brother. They just push me honestly every day and that’s not my motivation, but that’s my inspiration. It’s something well deeper than temporary motivation.
Joe: When you think about the way you grieve, we all do it differently, some people think structure and work helps. So, does football help?
Dak: Football has helped. It’s always been a safe haven, and it’s given me peace. My brother and my mom love this game so much, and they know how much I love this game. I think about them, even my hard days - maybe when football’s tough or moments I have to do within football are tough. I think about what my mom would tell me or what my brother would say, and it’s, "Get up and go. This is what you love to do and be thankful for it."
Joe: I realize that there’s a ton of football left in this season, but given the fact you have these three home games coming up where you guys can make a move, how pivotal was Greg Zuerlein making that 56-yard kick.
Dak: That was huge. Everything about the game was big for this team and huge momentum for us to use, as you said, coming into our first home game and coming into a home stretch where now we just gotta come in and protect our house and look up here in a month and be sitting with a nice record, finishing this quarter of the season. That’s how you break it down, quarter by quarter within the season.
Joe: Going back to Haughton, Louisiana, I realized after that trip that you were going to put in every ounce of work it took to maximize your potential. And now that you have, as the kids say, secured the bag and got all this money with the big contract, I’m curious about what success in terms of your career looks like to Dak Prescott.
Dak: Super Bowl. Multiple Super Bowls. I wouldn’t say that I’ve secured the bag, and I wouldn’t say that until I’ve won a couple of Super Bowls, to be honest. As I said, I’ve never played this game for money, and it’s never been about that. That’s just something that comes along with playing this position, being a professional. I didn’t ask for that. I asked to play at the highest level against the best of the best and to be a winner. And that’s what I strive for each and every day that I wake up, and that’s what will continue to motivate me.