Dak Prescott Has Become the Leader, Quarterback the Cowboys Hoped He Would

Two lives changed forever this time last year, when Tony Romo delivered a six-minute eulogy on his football career.

He gave permission, so to speak, for the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff and his teammates to fully embrace Dak Prescott as their leader for the rest of the season.

Romo, who had missed the season's first nine games with abroken bone in his back, didn't have many choices.

Prescott had led the Cowboys to a 8-1 record, including eight consecutive wins. And two days before Romo stood at a lectern and talked about the meritocracy of football, Prescott had rallied the Cowboys twice in the final four minutes to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So Romo, who was finally healthy enough to start, could become a weekly distraction or he could graciously allow Prescott to ascend to the throne, while he settled into a backup role.

"I remember a lot of news," Prescott said Wednesday at his locker. "I remember a lot of '@s' on Twitter for the most part."

"I didn't know he was doing it on that day until after it was done, but just going back and watching it, it was great by him. I felt his speech was more public. Me and him had already known our place between each other and our relationship," Prescott said.

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It's worked out for both men, and the Cowboys.

Romo is widely regarded as a rising star as a broadcaster on CBS's No.1 NFL broadcast team, and Prescott has been everything Jason Garrett could want as Romo's successor.

He's 18-8 as a starter with 39 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. He's also run for 11 touchdowns, third most by a quarterback in franchise history.

But it's his intangibles that Prescott's teammates, the coaching staff and front office regularly rave about.

Look no further than the way Prescott handled the physical beating he absorbed Sunday, when the Falcons sacked him eight times. He had been sacked 10 times in the first eight games.

Not once did Prescott slam the ball in disgust. Never did his body language scream frustration and after the game he refused to criticize Chaz Green, who allowed five sacks.

Actually, Prescott took some of the blame for not getting rid of the ball quickly enough.

"We've talked since the game," Prescott said. "It was two grown men talking, and we're good."

Prescott's leadership is something everybody in the organization recognizes and appreciates.

As one member of the front office said, "Our quarterback is that dude. Don't sleep on him."

What makes Prescott an effective leader is his authenticity. He easily converses with every facet of the team from his offensive linemen to the rookies on defense.

He gets to know their families and their hobbies, and he creates a bond and a loyalty that makes players want to play hard for him and respond when he asks a player to give just a little bit more.

"He has such a great spirit about him," Garrett said. "He sets a great example for his teammates. He has a real even keel through success and through adversity. Those guys can look at him as a consistent figure."

Prescott isn't all that interested in talking about his leadership skills, in part, because they come naturally.

It's part of who he is. He doesn't go out of his way to read books by John C. Maxwell on leadership or emulate famous generals. He just tries to be a good teammate.

"I like to know my teammates as brothers and friends," Prescott said. "Not just No. 84 or what position they play."

Prescott has passed for 1,994 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He's tied with Detroit's Matt Stafford for 10th in the NFL with a 96.3 passer rating.

But if the Cowboys don't beat Philadelphia and quarterback Carson Wentz — taken second overall last year — this Sunday night on NBC 5, a faction of the Cowboys' fan base will gleefully discuss how Romo would've done better.

It's amazing, really.

You would think the entire fan base would be thrilled it didn't have to go through an six-year journey like it did from the time Troy Aikman retired in 2000 until Romo took over in 2006.

Some franchises like the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and Chicago Bears have been searching for a franchise quarterback for decades.

But Romo loyalists seemingly won't embrace Prescott until he takes the Cowboys to an NFC championship game — something Romo never did.

A loss Sunday will virtually guarantee Philadelphia the NFC east title. The Eagles should win.

Prescott, as you would expect, concedes nothing.

"It's hard to say the Eagles are just another game, the way they're playing," Prescott said. "People are counting us out, and people are claiming they're the better team. It puts a little more into this rivalry, and we're ready for it."

Spoken like a leader.

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