Many times you will hear coaches refer to an athlete having the “it factor.”
I’m not sure how to define “it” either, but having been around sports all my life I can recognize it when I see it.
And Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott has it.
People just seem to gravitate towards Prescott. The way he worked the room at SEC Media Days last week wasn’t necessarily surprising to see but was impressive nonetheless. Prescott remained calm and also humble as he was peppered with questions from the 1,200-plus media on-hand.
Prescott is just a likeable guy. And when you hear his story and found out the obstacles he overcame both on and off the field last season, it allows you appreciate him even more.
I cannot imagine what the pressure is like just to be a quarterback in the Southeastern Conference. Last year, Prescott was not only battling for a starting job with Tyler Russell but also doing so with his mother Peggy battling with terminal colon cancer 300 miles away in Louisiana.
Prescott quickly became a fan favorite as a redshirt sophomore early last season, throwing for 1,158 yards and five touchdowns and rushing for 490 yards and eight more scores in the first seven games.
But the day before his mother’s death, Prescott had a career-worst outing against South Carolina, tossing three interceptions.
Instead of succumbing and letting the grief overtake him, Prescott returned to the practice field just hours after his mother’s funeral. Being around football and his teammates seemed to help him cope and a few days later he led the Bulldogs into battle at Texas A&M.
Prescott rushed for 154 yards and threw two touchdowns against the Aggies, but late in the fourth quarter he suffered an elbow injury that would keep him out of the Alabama and Arkansas games and the first three quarters of the Egg Bowl.
With his team trailing rival Ole Miss 10-7 heading into the fourth quarter, Prescott begged coach Dan Mullen to let him play. The spark of Prescott just hitting the field in the fourth quarter not only resonated on the sideline but throughout Davis Wade Stadium that Thanksgiving night. Not only did his teammates believe in him, but so did the entire Bulldog fan base.
That is the “it” factor he brings.
The events that followed will live on in Egg Bowl lore for many years to come as Prescott led the Bulldogs to a game-tying field goal and on fourth-and-1 from the 3-yard line in overtime, scored the game-winning touchdown to give MSU bowl eligibility for a fourth straight season.
Prescott went on to be the Liberty Bowl MVP accounting for 361 yards of offense and five touchdowns in the game.
There has been plenty of buzz about Prescott this offseason and even some Heisman Trophy talk.
But no matter how the upcoming season or the next goes, Prescott has already left his mark on the program and is already winning the most important game of all, life.
Logan Lowery (logan.lowery@ journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideMSUsports.com