Dakota Prescott didn’t have to return to Mississippi State in 2015.
Prescott more than proved himself in 2014, setting 12 single-season school records. Plus, Mississippi State lost its three best offensive linemen, its two best defensive players and 1,000-yard rusher Josh Robinson turned pro a year early.
But Prescott was steadfast that his team still had talent — unproven talent, but talent nonetheless.
He and the rest of the Mississippi State Bulldogs meet red-hot Texas A&M on Saturday at Kyle Field. Dak last played in College Station on Nov. 9, 2013. His mother, Peggy, had passed away a mere six days before he took the field for that game after a lengthy, and mostly private, battle with colon cancer. She was 52.
I visited with Dak last fall in Starkville, 42 days after my father passed away unexpectedly.
I remember fighting for the assignment to profile Prescott. I remember telling my editors at Bleacher Report that I had a hunch about this player, about his season. I pleaded with them to trust me. They did and off we went -– myself, a ton of fancy and expensive equipment and two producers. We left from New York, flew around a tornado, landed in Birmingham, Ala., and drove three hours to Starkville, arriving in the (very) wee hours of the morning.
I had done my research on Dak and his mama. I knew how precious their bond was. She loved all of her sons, that is well-documented, but she doted on Dak.
I, too, know what it feels like to be the apple of someone’s eye.
I was my daddy’s only child.
He chose me, literally.
He fell in love with my mom, and then he fell in love with me. When I was 18 months old, he gave me his last name, and his life. At that moment, he became mine and I was forever his little girl. I still am today.
I also learned about adoption -– the all-encompassing, life-changing, family-making, power of adoption.
Before meeting Dak, we already knew one another on a level that I don’t wish for anyone: as children who’ve lost a parent far sooner than they are supposed to go.
While my producers set up lights and cameras, Dak and I just walked and talked. I could barely contain my tears. My emotions following my father’s passing were still raw. He knew that and looked beyond my tears, to see me as a person, not me as the reporter. That touched me greatly.
Although I’ve seen Prescott many times since, I haven’t had a chance to explain what his understanding meant to me. I hope to convey my gratitude now.
We spoke about expectations, the game, coach Dan Mullen and Peggy. We bonded over our love of tattoos. We both have tattoos honoring our parents on the inside of our wrists. His reads, “MOM, or mind over matter,” as he later would tell me.
“That was her way,” Prescott said. “Even in the face of that terrible disease, she rarely complained. So how can I complain?”
We sat down for the interview and during it, there were times we both became misty-eyed. There was laughter, too. I felt Peggy and my father, David, all around us. He talked about managing expectations, smiled about the Heisman talk, but wouldn’t stay on that topic, more eager to talk about his team and his mom.
“I could tell her anything and she could tell me anything,” Prescott told me. “She was my best friend. What she taught me, I want to portray to the world.”
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