By JOEL COLEMAN
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Next week, the Mississippi State football team will report back to school. Not among those returning to campus for classwork is now-former quarterback Dak Prescott.
The man who rewrote the MSU record book and took the Bulldogs to heights never seen before closed out his career on Wednesday with a 51-28 beatdown of NC State in the Belk Bowl.
Prescott won recognition as the game’s Most Valuable Player. It still hasn’t sunk in for MSU head coach Dan Mullen that he’ll never again oversee an award-winning performance from Prescott.
“It’s probably not going to really set in until March when we walk out to the practice field and he won’t be there,” Mullen said after the game. “The great thing is I know it’s not going to be the last time I see him play because I’m going to make sure I get to see him play in the future.”
Prescott’s storied collegiate career could’ve gone much differently. LSU entered the Prescott recruiting stakes late in the process when Prescott was just a prep player in Haughton, Louisiana. Though many of his family members, including his late mother, favored the home-state Tigers, Prescott wanted to forge his own path.
“I remember the conversation when my mom allowed me to sign with Mississippi State,” Prescott recalled. “I was 17 at the time and she had to sign for me. LSU was in her ear. They were recruiting her more than they were recruiting me. I remember one night staying up until 2 o’ clock and just telling her I didn’t want to go jump on a team who was used to winning or something like that. I wanted to go to a team with a coach who was changing things and changing expectations. I saw that in Coach Mullen.”
Both guys were a boon to each other’s careers. As Mullen developed Prescott into one of the country’s top players, Prescott took Mullen and the Bulldogs on the most successful two-year stretch in the 116-year history of MSU football.
No one could’ve foreseen the impact Prescott would have on Mississippi State or the numbers he’d rack up. No one except Prescott himself anyway.
“I mean, I’ve got high expectations for myself so I’m not going to say it’s something that I never thought of or wanted to do or that I didn’t think that could happen,” Prescott said.”But for it all to become true, for it to be so real is special and very humbling.”
Mullen treasured it all just as much as Prescott, choking up as he talked about what the signal caller has meant.
“It all means an awful lot to me, because he believed in me when he decided to come to Mississippi State and we’ve been through a lot together,” Mullen said. “I think when people look back on what he did in the Southeastern Conference, they’ll realize that’s one of the great players in the history of the league.”
It might be a long time before another 17-year-old kid signs with Mississippi State and does the things Prescott did. Yet Prescott is living proof that drive and determination can lead to great things. With his college days now in his rearview mirror, Prescott has advice for any youngster who wants to be like Dak.
“Don’t take anything for granted,” Prescott said. “Don’t take a play for granted. Don’t take class for granted. Don’t take a rep in the weight room for granted. You control your outcome and I think that’s the biggest part of my career. I don’t know if anybody ever outworked me in the weight room, in the classroom or on that field. You’ve just got to love what you do and everything will take care of itself.”