Sunday, October 11, 2020, will long be remembered as a weekend of champions across the sporting world. Lewis Hamilton tied Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 career Formula One victories at the Eifel Grand Prix, Rafael Nadal earned his 13th career French Open victory and 20th Grand Slam title, while LeBron James collected his fourth NBA Finals MVP award in helping the Los Angeles Lakers to their record-tying 17th NBA Championship.
But it wasn’t all sunshine, rainbows, championships and records, as the gruesome realities of playing within the National Football League continued to take its toll on many of the game’s brightest star players by way of a season-ending injury.
A Season-Ending Injury
Already having seen a number of franchise players go down with injuries through Week 4 (running backs: Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekelar, Nick Chubb Tarik Cohen; wide receivers: Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin, Courtland Sutton, AJ Green; tight ends: OJ Howard, Dallas Goedert; defensive players: Nick Bosa, Tavon Young, Kelechi Osemele) another prominent name was added to the list midway through the nationally televised Dallas Cowboys – New York Giants matchup from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Up 24-23 in the third quarter – just moments removed from catching a touchdown pass on a variation of the “Philly Special” – Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott found himself scampering up the field on a first-down, rushing play. Although enduring a seemingly harmless tackle, the fifth-year offensive leader who had never missed a start, watched as his right ankle snapped beneath the full weight of his 6-foot-2, 245-pound frame, sending the 27-year-old into a state of mass delirium.
The immediate reaction coming from both on and off-field was that of shock, support and prayer. Nearly every game participant moved into the scene to console the Cowboys’ leader before he was wheeled away in visible and audible distress. A teary-eyed Prescott was last seen holding his right fist in the air before reaching up and pointing a finger high to the sky as the on-site medical cart transported him to the waiting ambulance.
Keep Walking By Faith
Prescott immediately underwent surgery on what doctors called a ‘right ankle compound fracture and dislocation’ at a nearby Arlington hospital Sunday evening. Shortly following the procedure, Prescott’s brother took to Twitter and posted a selfie of the two brothers in the recovery room with the caption: “God is good, and he’ll be back stronger than ever. I guarantee it. Let’s go, Dak. Continue to walk by faith, and I’ll make sure you continue to fight.” He followed that message up the next day with the Tweet, “MVP and Comeback Player of the Year in the same season. The fights starts today, lil bro. Let’s get it, Dak.”
Dallas eventually went on to win the contest on a 34-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein with the teams deadlocked at 34s. Backup quarterback Andy Dalton helped rally the Cowboys before speaking postgame of just how much the loss of Prescott would mean for the 2-3 club going forward.
“You absolutely hate it for Dak,” Dalton told reporters in his media availability. “The way that he was playing this year and everything he’s put into it, I hate to see that for him; it’s emotional. You hate that injuries happen in this game. Unfortunately, they’re part of it, and I’m definitely praying for him. It’s been a lot of fun to be around him ever since I got here, just to see how he works, see how he prepares, and you can see with just the way that he’s been playing this year.”
God Is In Control
Dalton is no stranger to difficult situations, either. However, he’s been lucky that they haven’t involved serious injury. Following nine seasons at the helm in Cincinnati, the 32-year-old was released in May of 2020, to which he signed on as a backup in Dallas. As an act of kindness, his faithful Bengals supporters donated nearly $25K to his children’s hospital foundation, based on the mission statement that reads: “To show God’s love and grace while providing support, resources and experiences to seriously ill and physically challenged children and their families.”
“There are times when you are praised, and you are the hottest thing going,and then things turn, and people are trying to bring you down,” Dalton previously said in an interview with Sports Spectrum. “You just have to know that God is in control of everything, and you are playing for him. He has given you this talent, so you have to tune some things out and keep the focus on him.”
There are times when you are praised, and you are the hottest thing going, and then things turn, and people are trying to bring you down. You just have to know that God is in control of everything, and you are playing for him. He has given you this talent, so you have to tune some things out and keep the focus on him.
Although it will be a difficult task to fill the shoes of the man who has thrown for over 17,500 yards and over 100 touchdowns while maintaining a 97.3 passer rating in just 69 stars, Dalton will not need to change his ways in order to fit the mold that Prescott has shaped in Dallas.
Prescott, who has often spoken publicly on his Christian upbringing has already experienced his share of heartbreak, having lost his mother to cancer in 2013 and his older brother to suicide this past April. He has continued to honor his fallen family members in various ways, but most notably with a pre-game ritual he spoke about during his time at Mississippi State.
“I put a strip of tape around my wrist whenever I play,” Prescott said. “I simply write ‘Faith’ on there for the faith that my mom showed me, the relationship we built from the faith we had, and my faith in God.”
The timing couldn’t have been more peculiar that Sunday, as just hours before Prescott saw his 2020 season come to a crashing halt, Washington’s Alex Smith made his return to football following a 700-day recovery after suffering a right leg compound fracture of his own in 2018.
Although Prescott’s expected recovery should not involve the 17 surgeries that Smith’s did (as the 36-year-old quarterback battled infectious complications involving sepsis), every day will certainly be a challenging steppingstone for the 2016 fourth-round draft selection. But much like Smith, Prescott is happy to be alive while allowing his exceptionally able replacement to take over under center.