Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fletcher Articles

For The Shreveport Times
Dak Prescott You gotta have faith
By: Tim Fletcher

Dak Prescott was on top of the college football world midway through the 2014 season.  

The Haughton High School alum and Mississippi State quarterback had performed at a level that pushed his name to the forefront of Heisman Trophy talk and his teams’ play landed them atop the College Football Playoff rankings. 

But then, Alabama happened. The Dogs dropped from the top spot and Dak’s name disappeared from Heisman discussion.  

Two weeks later, Ole Miss took it to MSU, ending any hope of a slot in the first college football playoff among the Football Bowl Subdivision. 

Where is the motivation at this point? What drives Dak when lofty goals, close enough to lower the helmet and bull through, disappear? The same place it’s been for over a year now.

He looks to his wrist. 

“I tape my wrists before games and before practice,” Dak explained. “I simply write ‘Faith’ on there for the faith that my mom showed me; the relationship we built from the faith we had and my faith in God. I write another little note that changes every day based on how I’m feeling. ‘I miss’ her, or, ‘I love’ her. I’ll write something like that on there.  But I talk to her through the day. It’s just something that makes me feel better, knowing she’s right there listening. She’s with me in everything I do—the good and the bad.”

Dak and his brothers Tad and Jace, lost their driving force in life, Peggy Prescott last fall when their mother succumbed to cancer.  Peggy drove the boys to succeed at any task attempted.  As a single mom, it was her duty to push hard rather than always coddle them.  But she was still a Mom---a caring, loving, Mom whose presence is greatly missed.

“Mostly during the hard times,” Dak said. “The easy times it’s easy to have people around you. When we’re winning, having success… of course I wish she was there and could celebrate with me in physical form; to see her smile and listen to her tell me how much she loves me and how proud she is of me; but through the hard times, she’s the one that I would talk to. After losses or after something bad happens, she would make me feel better. In situations like that, I talk to her in my head and feel her the most.”

Peggy must have been smiling ear-to-ear on September 20th.  That’s the night Dak and the Bulldogs pulled back the curtain in Baton Rouge, revealing just how dangerous they could be.  He ran for 105 yards and a score and blistered the Tiger secondary for 268 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Prescott’s humility prevented him from saying, ‘How ya’ like me now?’ but it was noticeably enjoyable.

“To be able to beat LSU like that in Death Valley, in front of friends and family as well as people who don’t normally watch me because they’re usually watching LSU...for them to watch me as well as the team I play for was special.”

Making it even sweeter for Prescott? LSU’s recruitment of the home-grown talent was awkward from the start.  “Early in the recruiting process, they were trying to recruit me as an athlete I went down to the camp and they put me in at tight end for a route or two. That really pushed me away from them. They came around later saying they wanted me to play quarterback, but still knowing they could easily switch and put me in a different position.”

Mississippi State head coach, Dan Mullen never wavered with the decision to keep the physically imposing Prescott at quarterback.  That choice helped MSU win their final three games of 2013, including the Egg Bowl, as well as enjoy unprecedented success this season.  The coach’s faith in Prescott also helped make Mullen a popular name to drop during conversations about head coaching vacancies around the country.  Dak’s not buying what “sources” are selling.

“Coach Mullen loves Starkville and what he’s doing with this program. It’s his program. I don’t see him leaving. He wants to be the best coach in Mississippi State history.”

Dak has faith in his coach to remain with the Cowbell Clanging Crew…will Dak be back for a final run with the Dogs? He graduated earlier this month with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Psychology and Physical Training.  His skill set certainly fits what NFL teams like to see from the position.  However, there is the possibility the 2015 Bulldogs could be better than this batch.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys that didn’t play or saw minimal reps that will come in and get better. We’re a talented team with a bunch of underrated freaks that can gets things done and win in this conference.”

“Underrated Freak” is a way to describe what Haughton head coach Rodney Guin and his Buccaneer coaching staff helped create in 2009 and 2010.  Only TCU joined LSU and MSU with scholarship offers from a “Power 5” team.

Guin was much more than a molder of football talent, though. Without a father around on a regular basis, Guin grew into the role for Dak and remains there to this day.   “

He’s always been there, even before I started playing for Haughton High because of the relationship I built with him when he coached my two older brothers. He’s everything a young man needs in his life; just being the great man he is today, that gives me and others a standard to live by.”

Imagine the feeling for Prescott, months after losing his mother when he found out his high school coach and role model suffered a massive heart attack.

“It was shocking, mind-blowing. I immediately tried to contact his family and the other coaches to see what was going on. The condition he was in when I got the news wasn’t comforting. Knowing the person he is, I never lost faith that he would fight through it and make a full recovery.”

This past season, when Mississippi State bounded off the bus at Davis-Wade Stadium on game day and made their way to the locker room through the crowd as part of their game-day ritual, Prescott had his eyes peeled for one man in the throng to deliver a bear-hug: Rodney Guin.

“That’s just the hug of love and being proud and thankful for the moment and thankful to him for helping me get to this position.  Being able to give him a hug to say, “thank you,” before I go play the game that I love.  He actually helped me get to this university…that’s a special moment each time I get to do that on the Dog Walk.”

The special moments on the field make an incredible highlight tape. The special moments from life make a message on a piece of tape around Dak Prescott’s wrists, the highlight of his day.