Dak Prescott carries mother's strength with him

FRISCO, Texas -- Before he goes to bed Saturday, the night before the first NFL start of his career for the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott will text his mother, Peggy.

He won't hit send, but he will keep the note, like he has so many other notes over the past three years. And he is sure she will read it.

Peggy Prescott passed away on Nov. 3, 2013, after a year and a half battle with colon cancer.

"Just reflecting, I think that's the moment, yeah, I do look back and I kind of say to myself, 'See where I am in life?'" Prescott said. "Just all the way back coming from Haughton, all the obstacles I've had to overcome and the obstacles she had to overcome to put me in this position and everybody in my family. It's exciting."

All three of Peggy's boys had an NFL dream. Tad was a defensive end. Jace was an offensive lineman, who played at Northwestern State. Dak played linebacker and running back in youth football but by middle school moved to quarterback.

"Football was literally 365/24/7," Tad said. "There was no offseason, especially in our house. We hated baseball season, basketball. Not that we didn't play it, but when football season ended it was, 'Oh, my God, what are we going to do?' It could be 36 degrees and freezing or 102 degrees and we'd get a football game going. We'd play catch. Something."

Tad has a tattoo of a football on his right shoulder. Jace has one on his forearm. Dak has one on his back.

"We got into the tattoo addiction and convinced Mom to get one," Tad said. "She got a small football tattoo on her left ankle with the number three to represent her boys."

They lived in a trailer park in Princeton, Louisiana. Peggy managed the I-220 Travel Plaza near Louisiana Downs. Dak said his work ethic, which the Cowboys praise, comes from his mother.

"Single mom, raising three boys, always at work, definitely," Dak said. "We went to work to help her, spent a lot of time up at her work because that's what she was doing. So definitely 90 percent came from that."

Peggy did not miss a game in high school. She made as many as she could when Prescott was at Mississippi State before she became too ill. The day before she passed, Prescott threw three interceptions in a loss to South Carolina.

The next week against Texas A&M he ran for 154 yards and threw for 149 yards with two touchdowns in a 51-41 loss.

But how Prescott reacted after his mother's death is something Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen won't forget.

"On a Wednesday we're at his mother's funeral, we fly back and I'm talking about what the next steps are and can we get ready and what his role will be in the game for the weekend," Mullen remembered, "and then him going to me, 'Coach, I mean my mother would kick my rear end if I didn't play this weekend.' That tells you how he was raised and the type of person he is and competitor he is."

Said Tad, "For Dak to play that game was more of a tribute to her because of the type of mom she was. It was more honoring her to be on that field."

Peggy was a Cowboys fan because Dak was a Cowboys fan. Dak was a Cowboys fan because his father, Nathaniel, was a Cowboys fan. Tad was a Houston Oilers fan, Jace a New Orleans Saints fan.

"Before the draft, Jace and I looked at each other and said, 'What if he gets taken by the Cowboys?'" Tad said. "We were like, 'Man, I'm going to be the biggest Cowboys fan in the world.' 'Yeah, me too.'"

Tad was going to wear the old-fashioned "D" hat but when Dak was named the starter, he decided to get one with the star. He still can't wear a jersey, even one with his last name on it. But his car has a Cowboys flag and another logo on it.

On Saturday, Tad, who lives in Orange, Texas, hopes to drive up to Dallas with Jace, after he finishes work. Nathaniel will be at the game. So too will other family and friends.

Their mother's presence won't be felt more Sunday because it's felt every day.

"I'll go into the game thinking about her," Tad said. "When I give Dak a hug, I'm thinking of her. She'll come up as much as she would on a normal day. Yeah, it's a little more special because it's the first game, but there's never a moment she's not with us."

When the Cowboys drafted him in April, Dak was given No. 10 but switched to No. 4 in honor of his mother's birthday. Last Sunday she would have turned 55. Dak didn't do much.

"I [was] just kind of chill," he said. "Think about her, think about her good memories. Things like that."

More memories will flood in Sunday as his dreams of playing in the NFL and playing for the Cowboys -- "as long as dreams were possible in your head," he said -- come true.

"She'd probably just be crying," Dak said. "She was emotional. We always used to get on her about crying. So she'd just be crying with a big smile on her face."