OXNARD, Calif. -- Dak Prescott does not get caught off guard often.
It happened this past Friday.
His father, Nat, traveled to Los Angeles to surprise Prescott the day before he turned 24. With the Dallas Cowboys practicing during his birthday on Saturday, they decided to celebrate at a Cheesecake Factory after the quarterback spent part of his off day at the spa.
“It was cool. It was a surprise. I didn't really know. I usually don’t get surprised, so they pulled that one off,” Prescott said. “I congratulated them on that one because he has tried too many times and it doesn't work. He got me on that one. It was good for him. I was excited more for him with him being a longtime Cowboys fan. The history of being out here in Oxnard, just coming out here and watching us practice.”
Nat knew his son was surprised immediately.
"When I walked in, I saw my little boy,” Nat said. “He all but passed out. He came running, 'What are you doing here? Dad, it was like I was in a time warp and I didn't expect you here.'”
Nat watched his son practice in what might have been the quarterback's best session early in training camp.
Fifteen months after Dak was drafted and 13 months after he became the team’s starter, Nat is still amazed that his son is quarterback for the Cowboys.
Despite growing up in Louisiana, Nat has always been a Cowboys fan.
"I am blushing now and you just can't tell," Nat Prescott said. "I walk around in a glow, I've been a Cowboys fan my entire life. My granddad did it to me; I in turn did it to [Dak]. And to see it come out about is a dream come true.”
As Jace and Tad, Dak’s older brothers, played Pop Warner, Dak wore a full No. 8 Cowboys uniform -- a gift from his parents.
“He thought that with that uniform he could compete with them,” Nat said. “We had trouble keeping him off the field. But that’s when he started telling me, ‘Daddy, I’m going to play for the Cowboys.’ God doesn’t make mistakes. Look at where we are today.”
Dak’s story has mostly been about losing his mother, Peggy, to cancer while he was at Mississippi State. The two shared an incredibly close bond. He has “MOM” tattooed on the inside of his left wrist. When he was assigned No. 10 upon being drafted by the Cowboys, he changed to No. 4 because his mother was born Sept. 4.
Even though his parents divorced when he was young, Dak was greatly influenced by his father. Even after their divorce, Nat and Peggy had a standing date every Wednesday.
“He has always been there,” Dak said. “Me and my dad have always had a tight relationship, different from my brothers, I guess. But we all have our own individual relationships. He has always been there for me.”
Over the years, Nat has read stories claiming he was not a part of his son’s life. It never bothered him.
"It wasn't for me to try to come out and convince the world," Nat said. "That's not my job. My child knew and that was the main concern for me. First chance you have, ask him. There's never been anything estranged about our relationship at all. I am Pops."
During his son's record-setting rookie season, Nat drove a city bus in Austin, Texas. He called the Texas capital home for nearly two years after opportunities as a commercial driver in the Louisiana oil fields dried up.
Somehow, some of the bus riders learned about his famous son.
“It came to where the buses started filling up and I’m like, ‘What’s going on?,’” Nat said. “Then everybody asked, ‘Are you really Dak’s dad?’ It was quite a deal out there.”
In February, Nat moved to a Dallas suburb, five miles from his son. His main job is to watch Dak’s two dogs -- Legend, a 90-pound pit bull, and The GOAT, a 15-pound French bulldog.
“He’s there for me,” Dak said. “I need something, he helps me out, gets it done. ... It’s just a whole lot more convenient.”
As he watched his son practice Saturday, Nat could not stop smiling. He called to Ezekiel Elliott as the running back ran drills. He spoke with team owner Jerry Jones before practice. After practice, the father and son shared a big embrace on the field.
"I mean, it's been a ride,” Nat said of the past year. “And I tell him thanks for taking Pops along on the ride. He’s my little boy. I tell people all the time when he has a bad game, I’m the shoulder he’s going to cry on. When it’s a good game, it’s the first high-five he’s looking to give out, too. We are thankful every day."