OXNARD, Calif. — Two weeks ago, the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers gathered in Atlanta for a pre-training camp retreat that Dak Prescott organized. It was said to have been an invaluable getaway, further cultivating the skill-position players’ growing on and off-field chemistry.
For Prescott, one of the enduring memories came when some of the trainers innocently asked the group who was the oldest member of the group.
“I had my head down taking notes and didn’t even think to look up,” Prescott said. “I heard a couple coughs and heard my name and I looked up and everybody was giving me crap for being the old guy.”
That was only the start of the razzing for Prescott, as the quarterback’s unexpected realization has lent itself to continued quips from his youthful supporting cast.
“He hates to hear it, but he’s an old man,” said No. 1 wide receiver CeeDee Lamb.
With Prescott set to turn 30 this weekend and longtime teammates such as Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper and Dalton Schultz now out of the picture, the 2016 fourth-round pick has somehow become the “old guy” among the skill players. New wide receiver Brandin Cooks is just a few months younger than Prescott, but the rest of the anticipated starters — Lamb, Tony Pollard, Michael Gallup and Jake Ferguson — range from 24-27 years old.
While Prescott acknowledged that he still feels like a younger guy, he has certainly withstood plenty of ups and downs across his seven-year NFL career. Between winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2016, a gruesome ankle injury in 2020 and plenty of playoff heartbreak mixed in along the way, Prescott has seen it all, and he appears to be using that wealth of experience to embrace his new role as one of the Cowboys’ elder statesmen on offense. Perhaps the best indication of this is the aforementioned getaway.
Prescott revealed Thursday that the outing was funded almost entirely by him, as he said that he handled all of the expenses aside from the individual flights. Additionally, he chose to not only include the starting offense in this excursion. Rather, thanks to the wisdom he has gained over the past several years, he made the admittedly rare decision to invite every single skill-position player.
“It’s always one of those [rookies or depth guys] that you’re gonna need late in the year to make a play,” Prescott said. “You’re gonna need one of those guys to get moved up from [the] practice squad. You’re gonna need one of those guys to come in on third down and make that catch.”
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, who said he had zero involvement in Prescott’s programming, noted how fruitful this opportunity was for some of Dallas’ ascending receivers.
“Having conversations with CeeDee, the young guys, Jalen [Tolbert], just the way it impacted them, it really touched those guys,” McCarthy said of the time spent with Prescott. “That’s what leadership is.”
It’s not just the young guys, either. Even Cooks, who has played with legendary quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Tom Brady across his nine-year career, has been drawn in by Prescott’s charisma since being acquired by the Cowboys in March.
“One thing I see about Dak is just the way that he’s able to lead,” Cooks said. “Leading, you just can’t fake it, and the way that Dak leads so authentically, you’ll follow that man anywhere.”
The price that comes with Prescott’s refined leadership skills is the reality that the clock is ticking and a potential drop off isn’t out of the question, particularly with the nagging reminder of his career-high 15 interceptions last season, which was a hot topic last week. He told reporters Thursday that he’d reduce those miscues in the 2023 season.
“That is a guarantee,” Prescott said.
With the sour aftertaste from recent playoff losses lingering, the Cowboys’ quarterback is motivated to get results in 2023.
“It just speaks urgency,” Prescott said of the fact that he is the last man standing from Dallas’ 2016 draft class. “I know what I want to do and want to accomplish.”
Until things ramp up, though, Prescott’s go-to receiver has provided him something to “accomplish” this weekend as he celebrates his 30th birthday.
“You better keep warming that shoulder up,” Lamb quipped of Prescott, “because soon enough I’m gonna be able to outrun it.”