Once again, his name and stat lines are back in the news as Dak Prescott completed 23 of 43 passes for 213 yards today. More importantly, Prescott played – and started – in his first game in the NFL, fulfilling his childhood dream of being the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
In Starkville, where Prescott spent the last five years and where his most recent regular season game was played, you might have thought it was the second Mississippi State gameday of the weekend. Typically, Mississippi is New Orleans Saints country, with a little bit of Tennessee Titans and a smidge of Green Bay Packers mixed in.
On Sunday, Starkville turned blue for the afternoon to watch their record-breaking hero make his debut as a rookie at the next level.
“I’ve been so nervous for him,” one person said as she watched him lead a drive down the field in the second quarter.
A similar sentiment spread across the small world of MSU football, whether on Twitter, Facebook or in homes and restaurants around the state and country. People who aren’t typically Cowboys supporters, or who don’t even watch the NFL, found themselves glued to the TV.
“I’m not a Cowboys fan,” one gentleman remarked after realizing he had accidentally said ‘we’ in reference to the Dallas team. “I’m a Dak fan. I need to make that abundantly clear when I cheer for the Cowboys.”
He later added, “This makes me so proud to watch Dak do this.”
To see how MSU fans were reacting to Prescott playing for someone other than MSU for the first time since high school, I checked in at a half-dozen Starkville establishments during the game and asked each person one simple question: why are you watching Dak today? I had them write down their answers on a piece of paper, telling them to use a few words or a couple sentences, whatever properly answered the question.
Some stuck to just a quick thought or sentence. Most kept it fairly short. But one person, Becky Dodd, couldn’t help filling up two sides of a piece of paper with her answer. Already in town Saturday for MSU’s win against South Carolina, Dodd and her husband stayed an extra day just so they could watch Prescott in Starkville with fellow MSU fans, doing so on Starkville’s Main Street at Hobie’s on Main, where the signature dish of the day was a hot dog named for Dak Prescott.
Dodd was the first person I talked to in the restaurant, but she was the last to finish her message. By the time she was done, she knew she’d written more than I’d asked, and was worried I couldn’t read it. With a few words scratched out as she searched for the perfect way to describe her emotions in the moment, the paper she handed back to me was filled with what spilled from her heart.
The rest of the answers will follow below, and we’ll start with the note Dodd wrote as she and others answered the question: why are you watching Dak Prescott play?
“I stayed in Starkville to watch Dak because I wanted to be with family for his start at QB with Dallas. I’ve watched him grow as a Bulldog over the years and am so very proud of the leader and man he’s become. He commands the field with poise and talent. His mother is not here to watch his amazing accomplishments. I feel as a mother – so very proud and nervous as he steps into the NFL arena. I can’t wait to see what he will do next.” – Becky Dodd
“I’m watching Dak because I’m a fan of his humble attitude. He’s a great player and deserves every chance in the pros. The 4th-rounder deserved to be a 1st-rounder without a doubt.” – Evan
“I love Dak.
I love Cowboys.
I like the wings here.” – Anonymous
“To show him the same love and support he has given us.” – Anonymous
“He made MSU football good.” – Anonymous
“Because we’re both MSU alums of the athletic department.” – Anonymous
“I’ve never followed the NFL, but when Dak was drafted, I became an instant Cowboys fan. He is Mississippi State. He’s a good kid and makes watching football FUN!” – Anonymous
“I am watching Dak because he is a Bulldog and I want to see how he performs at the NFL level.” – Anonymous
“To see how he performs at the NFL level.” – Anonymous
“He made us relevant.” – Anonymous
“It’s cool to see someone represent MSU on the biggest stage for one of the most famous franchises in NFL history.” – Anonymous
“I don’t ever watch the NFL but will watch Dak. He’s a great person, a Bulldog and has a chance to do something great. I want to see him do well.” – Anonymous
“Dak meant so much to MSU’s football program and to the university in general, and I cannot help but to watch him and pull for him to succeed in the NFL.” – Anonymous
“Because he was our savior in football, and because he’s murdering me in fantasy.” – Drew Shirley
“Because he made me have the best college experience as a football fan. Never would I have thought MSU would be that fun to watch.” – Anonymous
“He is the greatest QB out of MSU, and I am a lifelong MSU and Cowboys fan. Hail State.” – Mike Pickle Reed
“The Cowboys drafted D.D. Lewis in 1968 and he was a Bulldog and a friend of the family, so I became a Cowboys fan. I’d love to see Dak take us back to the promised land.” – Snap
“It’s good to see him represent MSU the right way.” – Anonymous
“Because it’s the biggest MSU-related NFL game in my lifetime.” – James C.
“Dak is Mississippi State. He is our own and we all just want to follow our boy. Also he is on my fantasy team, hoping to get some points.” – Jordan Hall
“We came here to watch Dak because he embodies everything it means to be a MSU Bulldog. His success reflects the success of this institution.” – Jake Weeden
“Well first of all he’s really hot. I cried at his senior day. He has been the best QB at MSU ever. We love you Dak!!” – Anonymous
“Dak kicks a- -.” – Anonymous
“Because he played at Mississippi State.” – Anonymous
“Watching Dak today means a lot because he was our Golden Child!” – Anonymous
“Dak put Mississippi State on the map. Just repaying the favor.” – Anonymous
“Dak Prescott’s legacy at State will be forever remembered. No doubt that he is the greatest player to ever play at MSU. To see him moving on to the next level of his career is absolutely amazing. With everything he did here at MSU, it would be stupid to not watch what he does at the pro level.” – J. V. Springer
“Because this is the most exciting professional debut by a Bulldog and if I can help it I’ll never miss a down he plays.” – Anonymous
“He’s an MSU player.” – Anonymous
“Because he gave us something to be proud of.” – Anonymous
“Because Dak is part of the MSU family – watching his career take off makes me proud to be an MSU alum.” – Anonymous
“I am watching Dallas (Dakota) play to support him, not as the Dallas QB but as a Mississippi State family member.” – Anonymous
“Seeing Dak mature from year to year here in Starkville and now watching him live his dream gives one pride to be a Bulldog.” – Anonymous
“As a lifelong MSU fan you always root for your own. His rise has been fun to watch. I think it will continue to be exciting for many years.” – Anonymous
“Gives me someone connected to the university to cheer for. And because he is my fantasy QB.” – Brandon Patrick
“I like what he did at State and am eager to see how he helps the Cowboys.” – Anonymous
“Represents not only America’s team but my home college. Always cool watching a QB on TV that I saw play in our stadium last year.” – A.J. Kelley
“Because Dak and the Dawgs go together! #HailState.” – Anonymous