FRISCO, Texas -- Growing up in Haughton, Louisiana, Dak Prescott was a Dallas Cowboys fan. Haughton is closer to Dallas than New Orleans, but Prescott still grew up admiring the in-state quarterback he will face Thursday, Drew Brees. There were times Prescott even pretended to be Brees in pickup games.
“Yeah, for sure,” Prescott said. “He’s a great quarterback. He’s a great player.”
Fourteen years separate Prescott and Brees in age. Brees is in his 18th season in the NFL and 13th with the New Orleans Saints, and he is the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and ranks second all time in touchdown passes. He has won a Super Bowl and the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Prescott is in his third year with the Cowboys, potentially scratching the surface of a long-term run as Dallas’ quarterback. He has won 28 of his first 43 starts. He has not thrown for more than 3,700 yards in a season -- something Brees has done for 12 straight years -- but he has led the Cowboys to the best record in the NFC once (13-3 in 2016) and was named Rookie of the Year.
What does Prescott admire about Brees?
“Everything,” he said. “Just the way he plays the game, the way he prepares. You look at his numbers. You look at his production in this league. He’s simply one of the best. Growing up in Louisiana and obviously watching the Saints, he’s somebody that I’ve paid attention to for a long, long time. I was fortunate to be in the Pro Bowl with him in ’16. He’s a guy I look up to, and he’s a great player.”
At that Pro Bowl, Prescott peppered Brees with questions for the entire week.
“You do everything you can,” Prescott said. “Like a little duckling, you just follow Drew Brees and just figure out what he does, how he does stuff. I was thankful to have him. Drew opened up and he shared things with me. We talked. We had a lot of conversations. And actually, we stay in touch.”
Brees grew up in Austin, Texas, and playing a few hours from his boyhood home means something to him.
“I can't say it's no big deal, going back to the home state,” Brees said. “I remember waking up every Sunday morning and watching the Cowboys after church. That was a big deal growing up. That was obviously a heyday for them with [Troy] Aikman and the 'Boys. I played a state championship game in the old Texas Stadium. There's a little something to it.”
Brees’ legacy is set. Prescott is in the early stages of creating his. He hopes people will look at him the way many do Brees.
“He’s a pro. He’s taking care of his body, has done all the right things, especially facing adversity, facing the middle of his career, and some people were saying he wouldn’t do what he has done now,” Prescott said. “It just speaks to the character of that guy and speaks to who he is.”
Sean Payton has been Brees’ only coach in New Orleans. The two have a strong connection built on familiarity and success. Payton, a former Cowboys assistant under Bill Parcells, has admired Prescott from afar, even though the Cowboys quarterback does the job differently than his quarterback.
“I think he is an exceptional leader. You just watch his presence and when he came into this league. I think he is strong in the pocket and he is a guy who can come out of trouble, if you will,” Payton said. “He can come off of sacks, out of tackles, extend plays. I think he has a real good presence in the pocket. He can beat you with his arm and he can beat you with his feet. He is a winner and those are the things that you see him doing the last three weeks now. They kind of have things going.”