ARLINGTON – Dak Prescott was late.
His family, friends, and high school coach – who made the three-hour drive west from Northern Louisiana – had just watched him shred his second NFL defense in as many weeks. They were waiting.
Prescott had just made NFL fans across the country, once again, wonder why he fell to the fourth round of the NFL draft. In the six drives he led the Dallas Cowboys’ offense in Friday night’s 41-14 dismantling the Miami Dolphins, the Cowboys scored 34 points. He trended on Twitter, and he, once again, made it look easy.
“I grew up a ‘Boys fan,” Prescott told USA TODAY Sports on his way out of AT&T Stadium. “I’m so happy to be doing this. I’m not going to say it has been easy because it hasn’t. I’m just trying, man. I’m trying to put in that work and ball out any chance I get.”
Ball out, indeed.
Prescott completed 12 of 15 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He added two rushing scores and 28 yards. It’s very early, but he’s looking like the steal of the draft.
But how exactly did a quarterback who played in a spread offense in Mississippi State, who rarely took a snap from under center, whose mechanics needed work, become the hottest name in the NFL preseason?
He said it’s simple. Prescott said he simply has immersed himself in the playbook and has worked on his weaknesses.
Throughout the pre-draft process, Prescott trained in Orlando with private coach Tom Shaw, where every single snap, every single practice rep, every single drill he went through, was under center. He fine-tuned his footwork. He molded his game to become more adaptable to a pro scheme.
Dallas, for its part, has called plays in Prescott’s two preseason games that highlight his strengths.
Because of that he has flashed his arm strength, pocket poise, rushing ability, and accuracy.
“The offense we ran at Mississippi State was nothing short of an NFL offense,” Prescott said. “The only thing that was different is that we didn’t go under center. I swear to you, in (pre-draft) visits, every play they showed me, I could name it. We just called it something different. At another team I visited, they ran the exact same stuff we ran.
“Knowledge-wise, I think I’m the smartest quarterback that came in this class. I would love to go on the board and go head to head with anybody else. That’s how I feel. That’s how confident I am.”
That confidence is something his teammates – young and old – are noticing.
“Some guys, they just got it,” wide receiver Dez Bryant told USA TODAY Sports in the locker room after the game.
“I’ll tell you this, man, rookie is just a name they give you in the league. You can either do it or you can’t. The guy, like I said is a student. Give it to him. You’ve just got to give it to him. He wants to learn and be good. He’s sitting behind a Hall of Famer. Give him his credit.”
Starting quarterback Tony Romo said after the game that Prescott’s ascension reminded him of himself “back in the day.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he didn’t “want to get into those discussions right now” when asked if Prescott had done enough to claim the backup job. Team owner Jerry Jones, and his son and executive vice president Stephen Jones, also deflected.
The Cowboys are being coy. After toiling in Backup Quarterback Hell last season – when the Cowboys went 1-11 in games when Romo sat out with two separate collarbone fractures – Dallas knows how important the position is.
“I don’t see a veteran quarterback on the scene or coming in,” Jerry Jones said Friday night during the team’s TV broadcast of the game, “as long as we’ve got the uptick arrow of Dak Prescott.”
That was before Prescott lit up the Dolphins secondary. Imagine how Jones must feel now.
In two preseason games, Prescott has completed 81.5 % of his passes for 338 yards, four touchdowns and no picks. He has added 41 rushing yards and two rushing scores.
Nine of the 10 drives Prescott has played this preseason have resulted in Cowboys scoring.
He has more total touchdowns (six) than incompletions (five).
But when Prescott plays first-team snaps in preseason games, the best offensive line in the NFL blocks for him. One of the league’s most lethal wideouts in Bryant catches his passes. One of the most dependable tight ends in Jason Witten serves as his safety valve.
These are optimal conditions for a rookie.
Prescott knows this. But he vows that he’s still so far from where he wants to be. With his friends and family waiting outside, Prescott is asked a question: What’s next?
“More work,” he said, “but hopefully more of the same.”
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes