HOUSTON, Texas– In the span of less than one year, Dak Prescott has gone from the 135th pick to the first in his class.
That much was obvious without an award, but Prescott cemented it Saturday night at NFL Honors. Early in the evening, the Cowboys' Pro Bowl quarterback was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year – capping off a rookie season unlike anything the league has ever seen.
Prescott accepted the award standing next to Ezekiel Elliott, which should surprise no one. The duo took the league by storm last fall, racking up an absurd number of wins and accolades. The NFL didn't even bother with the pretense that the award would go to anyone but a Cowboy, as Prescott and Elliott were the only players mentioned as nominees.
"I wish I had a knife so we could cut it in half," said a bemused Prescott from the stage at the Wortham Theater Center.
Prescott was always bound to deflect, true to his low key nature. But there's an important distinction to be made in this situation. As excellent as he was, piling up 1,631 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on the year, Ellliott was supposed to be here. The Cowboys drafted the star running back No. 4 overall to revitalize their offense and take the pressure off their defense.
The same can't be said for Prescott, who was almost an afterthought in the lead up to the 2016 season. He was a fourth-round pick who opened training camp as a third-stringer – and the rest of the story is obvious.
By the end of his debut season, Prescott had earned a Pro Bowl nod with 3,667 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and a mere four interceptions. He posted a passer rating of 104.9 and rushed for six touchdowns while leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record.
"It was a fun season, a great season – a great Year 1 for me. I tried to make the most of it," Prescott said. "Obviously, I want to be playing – a bunch of people want to be playing tomorrow. That's the reality. But overall, to win 13 games, to make the run to give ourselves a chance like we did in that last game of the season – it was a fun ride."
Even with the early playoff exit, it was a run that almost defies belief – and that's not hyperbole. Asked about Prescott on Saturday afternoon, Pro Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl champion quarterback Steve Young was at a loss for words.
"Honestly, I can't even speak about it – because I was a rookie. I have no affiliation with what he went through," Young said. "Nothing that happened to him happened to me. I shouldn't even be speaking about this – I have no idea how he did it."
Young isn't alone in that assessment, given that Prescott captivated the NFL throughout the Cowboys' run to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. But however he managed it, the achievement has been etched in NFL history.
Always confident, from the very start, Prescott said it was something he always knew he was capable of doing.
"I can't say it's unbelievable, just from the simple fact that I have confidence in myself, I have high expectations for myself," he said. "I believe in myself, I think, when no one else does. It's just hard work paying off."
The Dallas Cowboys were in Houston for the annual NFL Honors. Photos courtesy of Ben Liebenberg/NFL, Todd Rosenberg/NFL, Perry Knotts/NFL.