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Dak Opens Up About Mental Wellness


FRISCO, Texas – It's not the conversation, that would typically happen three days before the season opener, but it's an important one.

In the here and now, Dak Prescott is just 72 hours away from beginning his fifth NFL season – a primetime showdown against the Los Angeles Rams in the newly-opened SoFi Stadium.

Away from the flashy narratives of the new season, though, there are bigger issues to consider.

Earlier this year, Prescott taped an in-depth interview for "In Depth With Graham Bensinger," and excerpts of that conversation have been made available this week prior to the interview's wide release this weekend.

Prescott touched on a variety of topics in the interview, but one of the most impactful subjects dealt with the loss of his brother. Jace Prescott died in April, and though Prescott has acknowledged the support he received in the wake of the tragedy, he hadn't elaborated much on it.

In the interview, Prescott revealed that the cause of his brother's death had been suicide, and he talked about how his mother's battle with colon cancer had taken a toll on him.

"When something like that was a huge burden on him, he didn't know how to share it — didn't know how to be vulnerable about it," Prescott said.

Along those same lines, Prescott acknowledged that he has had his own mental struggles during 2020. Even prior to his brother's death, he said he was dealing with thoughts and feelings he hadn't been familiar with until recently.

"All throughout this quarantine, I started experiencing emotions I've never felt before – anxiety for the main one," he said. "And then, honestly, a couple of days before my brother passed, I started experiencing depression. I didn't necessarily know what I was going through, to say the least, and hadn't been sleeping at all."

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Prescott elaborated further on that period of time. As many people can no doubt relate, Prescott said he struggled with being away from people as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As I explained, it creates new emotions -- emotions that I've never felt before but obviously dealt with," he said. "And I obviously got the help that I needed and was very open about it. I think that's why I was fortunate enough to get over it, as not all of us are."

Openness is the obvious theme of this conversation. Even as mental health has gained a larger foothold in the national consciousness in recent years, it can still often be a stigmatized and uncomfortable talking point. Needless to say, seeing the face of the Dallas Cowboys talking about depression is significant.

"I think its huge," Prescott said. "I think it's huge to talk. I think its huge to get help. And it saves lives."

In a sport as hyper competitive as football, that's not always easy. It's an undeniable part of the culture of the sport that weakness is a liability, and that any burden can be endured. Prescott said it took opening up to his friends and family for him to feel more comfortable with the conversation.

"If I wouldn't have talked about those things to the people I did, I wouldn't have realized my friends and a lot more people go through them -- and they are as common as they are," he said.

Again, perhaps it's not the subject matter that'd typically accompany the start of a brand new season. But there's no denying it's importance. And given the challenges that he's been through – not to mention his position within the Cowboys' locker room, not to mention the national consciousness -- it counts for a lot that Prescott is willing to talk about them.

"I think that is important to be vulnerable, to be genuine and to be transparent," he said. "That goes a long way when you are a leader and your voice is being heard by so many and you can inspire."

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