By JOEL COLEMAN
Over the last 37 seasons of Mississippi State football, Jim Ellis has gotten the chance to describe the Bulldog careers of stars and role players alike. From his perch in radio booths across the nation, the longtime broadcaster has seen hundreds of MSU players come and go.
Whether it was from behind the mic, or as a fan in the years before that, Ellis can’t recall anyone that has impacted the MSU program like senior quarterback Dak Prescott has.
“I started watching Mississippi State when Billy Stacy was the quarterback in the late 1950s and we’ve had some nice quarterbacks since, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a guy that’s as complete a package as he’s been,” Ellis said. “He’s just a special guy. He’s the reason we had the special season last year and he’s the reason we’ve been able to do what this football team has (this year). I don’t know what we would have done the last two years without him.”
By now, Prescott’s success is well-documented. With a bowl game remaining before he concludes his career, Prescott already owns 38 school records. On Tuesday, he was awarded the C Spire Conerly Trophy, presented annually to Mississippi’s top collegiate player, for the second-straight season.
Outside the boundaries of the Magnolia State, Prescott has gotten notoriety as well. The Haughton, Louisiana native did so by becoming just the fourth player in FBS history and second in the Southeastern Conference to throw for 60 touchdowns and rush for 40 in a career.
The signal caller ranks fourth in SEC history with 110 touchdowns responsible and is third all-time in the league with 11,470 yards of total offense.
On Wednesday, Prescott was named a finalist for the Manning Award, which is given each year to the best quarterback in college football.
According to Ellis, the most impressive thing about all of Prescott’s accomplishments is that they all came as a result of continued progression.
“Each year, he got better and made quality throws that resulted in big plays,” Ellis said. “He just got better every year. I think that’s the most special thing about him. He’s a guy that never went backwards. He went forwards his whole career.”
Off the field, Prescott has been just as important for Mississippi State. He rarely misses the chance to sign an autograph or take a spur-of-the-moment photo with a fan. He obliges virtually every media request with the demeanor of a seasoned NFL veteran.
Prescott has also succeeded in the classroom, getting an undergraduate degree in educational psychology in Dec. 2014. He’s currently wrapping up his master’s degree in workforce leadership.
Ellis says, when you put it all together, Prescott has been the total package of personality and performance unlike anything he’s seen in Starkville before.
“When I first started following Mississippi State, people used to talk about Jackie Parker a lot, but that was before my time and I didn’t see that,” Ellis said. “John Bond had a lot of personality and was a big-time player, and we’ve had some great players at different positions, but I can’t remember (anyone like Prescott).
“He’s a nationally-recognized player and he’s just handled himself so well and been such a great face for the program. You’ve got some people who are really good athletes but you really don’t want them as the face for your program. He’s a guy you’re proud is the face of your program.”
Ellis saw early on that Prescott had the chance to be special. Thinking back to Prescott’s sophomore year when he was splitting time as MSU’s starting quarterback with former Bulldog Tyler Russell, Ellis said it was obvious Prescott could blossom. Then came the 2013 Egg Bowl when an injured Prescott entered the game in the fourth quarter and sparked MSU to a come-from-behind, 17-10 overtime win over Ole Miss.
“What he did coming off the bench and leading the victory against Ole Miss in 2013, I think that was one of the special moments for him, but it was a special moment for Mississippi State folks to watch a guy and see what he meant to his football team when he stepped on the field,” Ellis said. “He’s got a persona about him that he’s just a very confident guy. Not only that, but with that confidence he pulls everyone else along with him.”
Prescott wasn’t as fortunate in his last two Egg Bowls, including last Saturday when the Rebels topped the Bulldogs in Prescott’s final game at Davis Wade Stadium. Yet, a chance for redemption awaits.
Mississippi State will learn its bowl destination on Sunday. From there, Prescott can forget the recent loss to Ole Miss and focus on ending his career on the right note.
Ellis says that’s just the way Prescott’s story at Mississippi State should end.
“I hope he has a great bowl game because he deserves it and I think the way Mississippi State fans want to remember him is with him having a great bowl performance the last time he puts on maroon and white,” Ellis said.