For someone who began work on his Master’s degree this week, it made sense Dak Prescott would deliver news as someone who appeared to have come to a decision in a rational and mature way.
Dak is back, he announced. Mississippi State’s quarterback is returning for his senior season, a decision he said he came to a while back, well before he received his draft grade from the NFL Advisory Committee.
His goal now is, in part, to get better as a quarterback, but his primary focus is on winning games at MSU in 2015.
“I think this another year for Mississippi State to compete for a National Championship,” he said. “We want to be a team that competes consistently year in and year out … We have the ability to do that.”
While coming to his decision, Prescott told reporters, he looked at the NFL Playoffs and saw so many teams with quarterbacks who got their degrees and stayed in school when they didn’t always have to. Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and even Andrew Luck. Each benefitted from another season in school, and Prescott hopes to do the same.
“Developing as a quarterback takes a really, really long time,” MSU quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson said. “There’s constant evaluation, constant improvement that can be made.”
Of note, Prescott intends to improve his accuracy, decision-making, footwork and leadership skills in 2015 as he gets more and more reps.
Though, as Mullen pointed out, just about all of those are areas he improved in over the course of the 2014 season, particularly his ability in the pocket.
Prescott’s announcement was expected, but it’s one that sends a surge of optimism and hope through the program and the entire fanbase. Prescott was the face of a 2014 season that brought, literally and figuratively, the highest highs in the history of Mississippi State football. While there are 100-plus players and coaches who deserve credit, Prescott was the leader as MSU ascended to No. 1 in the country for the first time in school history, stayed there for a month, and beat three-straight Top 10 teams to get there.
He could have left now and gone down both as an immediate legend and the greatest quarterback in MSU history, statistically speaking. But his meaning to MSU and those who support it goes far beyond on-field performance. Prescott gave State fans something to believe in. Most who wear maroon and white would tell you that if a game in the past was in question, or a miracle was needed to win, they often expected to come out on the bad end.
Prescott is one of the few, if not the only, of those they’ve supported for over a century who gave automatic confidence to those who watched him, as well as those who played with him.
MSU has quarterbacks behind Prescott with SEC experience and high star ratings, but it’s for those intangible reasons that Dak’s return means so much.
“The best recruiting job of all,” Johnson said, “is getting a player back of Dak’s caliber.”
Looking ahead to his senior year, Prescott is the centerpiece, but he’s far from the only piece. In his announcement, Prescott ran down a list of linemen, running backs, receivers, defensive stars and talented coaches who make up what he expects to be a team that can win the SEC. After finishing second in the conference in 2014, it’s not an unrealistic goal.
Prescott isn’t one who enjoys talking about himself, and he constantly deflects and downplays the praise he receives. But while he won’t say it, he knows how much it means to MSU to have him back for one more year.
The way he carries himself is how his head coach Dan Mullen knows what to expect from his star pupil.
“His maturity and how he handled everything,” Mullen said, “showed how he’s gotten to where he is now and the type of future he’s going to have.”