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Dak Prescott on Ezekiel Elliott, Jerry Jones and Cancer Awareness

Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott

All eyes will be on Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, 25, this season. After losing high-profile pass-catchers Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, the weight of Dallas’ passing game will be firmly on Prescott’s right arm. The good news? Prescott is at his best when he spreads the ball around — with a 14–2 record, 24-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio and 104.5 passer rating in games when he targets eight or more receivers. We chased down the third-year signal-caller to discuss the upcoming season and Cowboy Nation.

How will the Cowboys’ passing game change this year?

The ball will be everywhere. Expect to leave a couple of games with seven, eight, maybe more different guys being targeted. Just spreading the ball around, giving everybody a chance. When we do that, those guys are all going to be hungry. Those guys are all going to want the ball and want to make plays with it after they get it.

What makes you and Ezekiel Elliott work so well together?

We actually come from pretty much the same background, him being coached by Urban Meyer at Ohio State and me being coached by Dan Mullen at Mississippi State, who both worked together at Florida a few years back and winning the national championship (in 2006 and 2008). When it comes to the read-option, pass protections, pretty much anything within the game, we have a great understanding of each other's background and knowledge.

It's easier to talk, dissect and understand where somebody's coming from when they see something in the defense. But his ability to run the ball and make plays in the passing game is so dynamic. Defenses have to worry about not only Zeke running but me running as well or play-action over the top. It opens up the field so much.

What’s it like to play behind arguably the best offensive line in the NFL?

I don't even think that's arguable. They're the best. Me and Zeke definitely reap the reward for it. It's a blessing to have such young, talented, Pro Bowl or All-Pro every year, on pace to be Hall of Famers — all three of them (Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick). La'el Collins has a chance to grow and continue to get better and be one of those All-Pro Pro Bowl guys year-in and year-out. We got that second-round pick, Kyle Williams, who we expect big things from.

They're talented but what helps them is that they're pretty much a cult. That offensive line sticks together, they do everything together. They work out together. They eat outside of the facility together. It's great that they bond. It's great that there's a standard and expectation that they carry within themselves that make them great.

Did you get a chance to watch any Tony Romo on TV last year? How do you think he did?

He did great, and I didn't even have to watch him to know that. You get on social media and you have the “psychic” up there in the booth calling the games. His best strength when he was playing the game was his knowledge of the game, so him being in the booth is just a chance for him to show that off. He's calling out defenses before they're running on certain blitzes. Then off of that, he's studied the offense's tendencies. He knows what they like to run on third and short, or second down, or first down after a big play. He's an incredible, incredible, talented guy that knows the game really well.

What do you think Jason Witten's style will be on Monday Night Football?

I don't necessarily know if Jason's going to be calling out plays left and right, but I know Jason was the guy that I watched in the locker room, outside the locker, on the field, off the field. The guy does everything, always prepared, always giving his best. I know he'll do exactly that in the booth. He'll be one of the best young broadcasters in the game, simply just by the way he prepares himself and he carries himself in life.

How will the retirement of Jason Witten — the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver — impact locker room leadership?

Wit was an incredible leader. Wit taught me a lot of things. He was the person that I watched on the field, off the field, in the locker room. And doing that, I was able to learn a lot. A lot of players were. He was the main leader when there were things that needed to be discussed with coach, or things needed to be discussed within the team. Wit was the guy to do that. With his departure, all it did was elevate and make other guys, and myself, step up and be more of a leader, vocally.

Entering into your third season, what have you focused on this offseason, in terms of adding to your game?

My anticipation. Anticipating those windows I want to throw into. And subtle movements in the pocket. You watch sometimes, other guys that move a lot in the pocket that was moving out of trouble but sometimes moving out of one trouble to get into the next. Making subtle movements, taking the smallest move, making it mean a lot within the pocket, so it allows you to throw a defender off.

What's your personal relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones?

There is not a person that plays or works for the Dallas Cowboys that does not like Jerry Jones or appreciate him as a boss. Simple as that. He's a personal guy to me, to other players, to staff members. He's great.

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Dak Prescott’s mother, Peggy, passed away at age 52 from cancer in 2013. Since then, he has been passionate about raising cancer awareness. Currently, Prescott is promoting the “Ready. Raise. Rise. Pic Your Power Challenge.”

Tell me about the “Ready. Raise. Rise.” campaign…

The objective of the “Ready. Raise. Rise.” campaign is to raise awareness and educate people on immuno-oncology research, which focuses on how unique each cancer is and to help our immune system fight it off itself within the body.

I’ve challenged everyone to go to, educate yourself on immuno-oncology research and take the “Pic Your Power” challenge. Post a picture with a “Ready. Raise. Rise.” sign. When we get 100 submissions, Bristol-Myers Squibb has promised to donate $250,000. It's a doable goal. We want it to be done. And hopefully done by today.

You have another slogan inspired by your mother, “Fight, Finish, Faith.” What does that mean to you?

“Fight, Finish, Faith.” It means everything. It's who my mom is. She fought her cancer, she finished the fight strong, and she had faith all the way through it. She had faith in where she was going and what her family's going to do, what her kids were going to do. That was her message to us when she passed.

My oldest brother's “Fight.” He's always been the fighter in the family, taking up for the family, always fighting for what he wants. My little brother was “Finish.” He was there when she passed. He always finished things well and she wanted him to finish college. And mine was “Faith.” Always believing in myself, believing in other people, believing in the best, and getting the best out of everything that I do. I was “Faith.” I share those three words — my slogan for life — and try to make a difference in this fight and help prevent this nasty disease.

You changed your jersey to No. 4 when you got to the NFL. What significance does that have?

My mom’s birthday is Sept. 4. When I became a Cowboy, they showed me the numbers that were available, and the No. 4 was special to my mom. I saw it and I was like, “Yeah, that's what I want to wear.” It's just another opportunity, another moment for me to signify something for my mom.

Everyone's experience is so personal and difficult, but what advice would you have for people who are coping with a loved one battling cancer?

Just to love. Just to be there. That's all you can do. Just to be there, to have faith, to be a helping hand. To be someone to talk to. That's all they need for the most part. They're going through a battle for their life. To have that love, to have somebody that cares for them, I think goes a long, long, long way in their fight with cancer regardless of the end result.