Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is somehow already accustomed to the big stage. And he wishes to advance to the biggest stage of all.
"There is only one place that I want to go ... and that's to the Super Bowl," Prescott told a massive audience at Saturday's 105.3 The Fan "Mud Bug Bash" in Arlington. "There is a lot for us to grow on. We have to figure out how to win that game, win those playoff games and win the games that are close so we can win championships and we can do great things for a long time to come. It's a great year to start off with and grow on."
Prescott, a playoff QB as a rookie last year, is also taking care of all sorts of off-the-field business. As a young man trying to make his way, he has purchased a home in DFW. breakout star, is shopping for his first pair of cowboy boots, is searching for first pair of cowboy boots and is taking in a French bulldog to match with his pit bull, "Legend."
Oh, and he is trying to learn how to play golf.
"I kind of got the golf bug," Prescott said. "I'm not very good at all. I've found something and I want to get better at it. That will be my new hobby this offseason."
Golf? You mean, the game that is a passion of his predecessor Tony Romo -- the game that got Romo is trouble with overzealous critics?
Nobody, however, is in position to criticize Prescott's devotion the more important cause. The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, who took Romo's job and in a sense had a hand in Romo's retirement from football and move to CBS' lead NFL analyst job, is even devoted to making sure the Romo reputation is preserved.
"Me and Tony, we've always been great throughout this whole situation, before the situation, when I came in, so nothing has ever changed," Prescott said. "That's something I'm very thankful for, that me and Tony were able to manage to keep our relationship the same throughout everything that was going on.
"I'm happy. I hope he's happy. He made the decision to retire. He's had a great career and he's got some big shoes for me to fill and I'm going to try to come in and do a good job for the Cowboys."
Prescott said he understands Romo's decision and thanked him for his guidance.
"He's got to take care of himself," Dak said. "He's had some injuries throughout his career. I just hope it's what he wanted to do. I know he still has some football left in him if he had that in mind. Obviously watching him throughout this year, learning a bunch from him, learning different ways to throw the ball, he's a great player and he's a heck of a competitor no matter what he does."
The Cowboys' offseason program officially began Monday, and Prescott (taking on a leadership role, as you can see from my tweet below) said he is prepared for a different challenge from when he was a relative unknown last year.
"Anytime that you've had the success that I had in one year, that being my first year, I expect things to get harder," Prescott said. "I wouldn't want it any other way. The defenses have had more looks at me, so they're going to throw things at me. I'm ready for all of it. I'm excited for the challenge."
Part of what Prescott views as his responsibility is connecting with people. Military veterans. Kids. Media pests.
I was backstage asking Dak about his experience eating mud bugs and he said, "I'm from Louisiana… I eat them all the time! but based on the look on your face," he said to me, "you don't."
I confirmed that and he shot back, "That's because you are a Northerner!"
Prescott has a quick-on-his-feet eloquence and grace that belies the 23-year-old's newness to this level of attention. He's put that in display when signing autographs, as he did at this event hundreds and hundreds of times.
"It comes with the territory," he said. "It's 360 degrees from where I was last year at this time, but it's definitely exciting."
I watched his “excitement’’ unfold in the presence of the 6-year-old girl wearing the No. 4 jersey who’d somehow found herself backstage at the Levitt Pavilion. Members of the two bands that would take the stage after Dak’s appearance were milling around, tuning instruments and guzzling water. Radio station staffers, TV cameramen, newspaper reporters and various other hangers-on filled the space and dwarfed the girl.
Dak, who’d joked a moment before that as a new resident of DFW, ”Between all the construction and the tollways, I'll probably be here 10 years and still using my GPS." Yet he somehow found the little girl, and she found him … like magnets … and he greeted her, and her parents, with the warmth usually reserved for family.
Cowboys Nation loves the notion of him being her “10 more years.’’ But Dak Prescott, lost? Not really. Not ever.