FRISCO (AP) – Dak Prescott stared blankly at a reporter who asked how many times the new face of the Dallas franchise had heard the term “sophomore slump” in recent months after one of the best rookie seasons for a quarterback in NFL history.
“Say again?” the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year said.
The reporter repeated the question.
“What’s that?” Prescott shot back.
Without using any words, the sudden star of America’s Team suggested there’s plenty he thinks he can do for an encore starting Sunday night against the New York Giants after leading the Cowboys to the best record in the NFC.
And since Prescott likes to talk about winning, that’s probably the best place to start since the Cowboys followed their franchise-record 11-game winning streak and 13-3 season with a divisional playoff loss at home to Green Bay last January.
“All I’ve ever known is hard work, and hard work pays off,” said Prescott, who tied the rookie QB record of 13 wins set by Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.
“That’s what I did in this offseason as I’ve done every offseason in my career.”
He also signed endorsements, attended packed youth football camps bearing his name and celebrated from the second row when his alma mater, Mississippi State, ended UConn’s record 111-game winning streak at the women’s Final Four in Dallas.
While recognizing his rapid rise to fame, Prescott never missed a chance to explain why it was happening. That also meant reminding everyone that the winning and the touchdowns and the triple-digit passer rating had to continue as well.
“Everything,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said when asked what Prescott needed to do to improve on his remarkable debut.
“I’m being honest. He’s also very honest with himself. He works on his fundamentals and takes the coaching like no one else in my opinion and works on a daily basis to get better.”
Prescott was a fourth-round draft pick and third-string quarterback when backup Kellen Moore broke an ankle in training camp last year. He’d already had two impressive preseason outings when Tony Romo broke a bone in his back in the third exhibition game.
A year later, Prescott appears to be the next 10-year starter after Romo, who retired and went into broadcasting after having to accept during the season that he wasn’t getting his job back.
Sudden change? Depends on who’s talking.
“I feel like by the time Sunday comes last year to this year, it’s the same,” Prescott said. “My coaches do a good job preparing me. Obviously I’m a much better player, much more experienced. So that takes care of itself. But for the most part I’m going to be prepared for the game when Sunday hits.”
The Giants beat Prescott and the Cowboys twice last season, first in what was a solid outing for his debut and then in by far Prescott’s worst game, a 10-7 Dallas loss that ended the 11-game run.
Prescott wasn’t the only record-setting rookie for the Cowboys last season. Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL with 1,631 yards rushing as the fourth overall pick, and both benefited from one of the league’s best offensive lines.
Elliott will play the opener, but his status beyond that is in doubt after the appeal of his six-game suspension over a domestic violence case was denied. If Elliott serves the suspension this season, the first question will be how Prescott functions without him.
“I think one of the best things Dak does is he has a lot of confidence in the guys around him, he communicates really well and puts us all in good position,” 15th-year tight end Jason Witten said. “I just think it’s just trust our system even more.”
Ask Prescott about the notion that opponents now have a year’s worth of video on him, and he’ll respond that he has the same.
Ask him what he wants to accomplish after a dizzying list of impressive numbers last season, and the answer will be almost as short as the one about a sophomore slump. Prescott wants to win.
“You take any player that will put the time in, he’ll improve,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “He’s done an extraordinary amount of work, and his improvement has been dramatic. It wouldn’t be at all wrong to expect a better Dak.”
So don’t even ask about a sophomore slump.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)