FRISCO, Texas – At this point, Dez Bryant is a veteran of Thanksgiving games and the spotlight attached to them. It's the sort of attention that normally makes a guy like Bryant raise his game.
"The world is watching," Bryant said this week of the annual Cowboys' Thanksgiving game.
But for rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, the game brings back nostalgic memories of watching his favorite team with his family. Prescott grew up rooting for the Cowboys, and like so many families for the past few decades, watching America's Team play was as much a holiday tradition as carving turkey.
"It was always get up, eat some food, and watch the Cowboys play," Prescott said on Tuesday. "Now I'm kind of excited to be playing in it."
The notion of a rookie who once cheered on the Cowboys every Thanksgiving now leading the team to a nine-game winning streak coming into the annual holiday game is nothing short of remarkable. Prescott, having proven averse to overhyping any one moment or achievement, characteristically downplayed the difference between watching the game from the couch and playing under center.
"I [have] to eat after and not before," Prescott joked.
If Prescott watched every single Thanksgiving game since he was born he likely saw head coach Jason Garrett's famous 1994 Thanksgiving performance when he filled in for Troy Aikman and put up 311 passing yards and two touchdowns and outdueled Brett Favre for a 42-31 victory.
Prescott probably wasn't cheering too passionately. He was 15 months old.
"Someone else in the organization told me the story so I had to go and look it up myself," Prescott said of his coach's Thanksgiving Day heroics. "I might bring it up to him and ask him where the tape is."
Prescott has been established as the team's starting quarterback, but the parallel remains between he and Garrett that they both proved ready when thrown into the spotlight. "It wasn't hard to believe," Prescott said about the 1994 game. "I see the type of guy he is. He went and made the most of his opportunity."
Thursday will prove to be a day full of firsts for Prescott. Along with playing in his first Thanksgiving game, it is also his first time playing an NFL team twice in a season. That previous game against the Washington Redskins also happens to be Prescott's first win as an NFL quarterback.
"That one was special," Prescott admitted. "After losing the first [game of the season] the way we lost it, for the Washington game to come down the way it did and for us to pull it out, it was great."
Prescott was 22-of-30 for 292 yards in the Cowboys' Week 2 victory over Washington. He also ran for a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter to give the Cowboys the lead.
Both teams will surely take what they learned from the 27-23 game, but Prescott made a point that teams can change quite a bit in eight weeks.
"They've got a couple of different guys in the secondary and they've changed up some things schematically," he said.
Prescott might be a relatively new face leading the Cowboys on Thursday, but he's joining an old tradition. The Dallas Cowboys have played 48 Thanksgiving games and have faced the Washington Redskins 113 times in their franchise history. Prescott is only beginning to write his chapter.