'Dak 7': Dallas Cowboys' Prescott still motivated by QBs taken before him

'Dak 7': Dallas Cowboys' Prescott still motivated by QBs taken before him

'Dak 7': Dallas Cowboys' Prescott still motivated by QBs taken before him

6:00 AM ET

Todd ArcherESPN Staff Writer Close

  • Covered NFL since 1997, Cowboys since 2003
  • Previously covered Bengals and Dolphins
  • Lives in Dallas area with his wife and two children

FRISCO, Texas -- For more than 20 years, every NFL fan has heard of the Brady 6, the quarterbacks selected before the New England Patriots selected Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft.

Dak Prescott can relate.

“It’s seven for me,” the Dallas Cowboys quarterback said. “Brady 6, Dak 7.”

In the 2016 draft, Prescott was the eighth quarterback selected. The Cowboys got Prescott with a fourth-round pick. Since then he has taken the team to the playoffs three times. He has twice been named to the Pro Bowl and would have been added in 2021 if he hadn’t chosen to pass on the opportunity as a replacement.

Last year, he set the franchise record for touchdown passes in a season (37). And he signed the most lucrative contract in team history in 2021 -- four years, $160 million, which was more than what owner Jerry Jones paid for the club and Texas Stadium in 1989.

“You want them in order?” Prescott said when asked about the Dak 7.

“Goff, Wentz, Paxton, um, Brissett, Kessler. Missed one in the order. Hackenberg. Connor Cook.”

Jared Goff and Carson Wentz went Nos. 1 and 2 in the first round to the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively. Paxton Lynch was the 26th overall pick to the Denver Broncos, and his selection caused Jones great consternation because the Cowboys attempted to trade back into the first round to grab him.

Christian Hackenberg went to the New York Jets in the second round (51st), followed by Jacoby Brissett (91st, Patriots) and Cody Kessler (93rd, Cleveland Browns) in the third. The Cowboys attempted to trade to the top of the fourth round for Cook but were beaten out by the then-Oakland Raiders, who grabbed him at No. 100 overall.

Then came Prescott at No. 135.

He did not seem especially happy when the Cowboys phone call came on April 30, 2016.

Prescott did not let loose with any huge roars as Cowboys vice president of player personnel Will McClay handed the phone to Jones so the owner/general manager could tell him he was a Cowboy.

He said he was excited, but it seemed muted.

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“Yeah, it was an array of emotions,” Prescott said. “Friday night and even to Saturday morning, I was pissed. After Friday passed, yeah, I was angry I didn’t get selected. So then Saturday came and every pick that went just intensified it more so. When that call came, it was weird because really I knew this area code was Dallas, but, ‘Is this for real? I grew up a Cowboys fan.’ Then Jerry jumped on the phone, and I think somebody grabbed my shoulder and that’s when all the good emotions hit.”

Every spring offers Prescott a reminder of how far he has come.

“I wouldn’t say it fires me up. I’m very self-motivated, very self-inspired in that,” Prescott said. “I’ve got way bigger things to inspire me, but yeah, when you hear about it, you get reminded of it, so, yeah, for sure it just throws a little salt on the wound and makes you want to get out there.”

Even with his seven Super Bowl wins, Brady, who unretired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason to play a 23rd season, uses the slights -- real and perceived -- as motivation. In an ESPN feature about the Brady 6 from 2011, he recited the six quarterbacks taken before him:

  1. Chad Pennington, New York Jets, No. 18 overall
  2. Gio Carmazzi, San Francisco 49ers, No. 65 overall
  3. Chris Redman, Baltimore Ravens, No. 75 overall
  4. Tee Martin, Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 163 overall
  5. Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams, No. 168 overall
  6. Spergon Wynn, Cleveland Browns, No. 183 overall

The Patriots selected Brady at No. 199 overall in the sixth round.

“A lot of people don’t believe in you,” Brady said in the piece. “It was obvious by six other quarterbacks being taken and 198 other picks. And I always felt, you know what, once I get my shot I’m going to be ready. I’m going to really take advantage of that.”

Brady did. And so has Prescott.

Brady’s first preseason action came in the Hall of Fame Game against his boyhood team, the 49ers, and Carmazzi. Prescott’s first preseason action came against Goff in the NFL’s return to Los Angeles. With incumbent starting quarterback Tony Romo out with a back injury, Prescott started and completed 10 of 12 passes for 139 yards and two scores. Goff did not start but completed 4 of 9 passes for 38 yards and had an interception.

Prescott went on to win NFL Rookie of the Year after helping the Cowboys to a 13-3 record and has started every game he has played in Dallas. After helping the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018, Goff was traded to the Detroit Lions in 2021.

Jason Garrett, Prescott’s first head coach, doesn’t remember a specific conversation with Prescott about the motivation he got from the draft, but Garrett has been around so many great players that he understands the drive.

“Now it’s a long time ago and he probably has other things that fuel him now, but I often think of Michael Jordan’s speech when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Garrett said. “This is the greatest player that ever walked, right? And he literally talked through the slights in high school and so many different things that he remembered along the way in an almost unhealthy way. Somebody wrote an article he didn’t like, so he doesn’t talk to him and it’s ‘I’ll prove this.’ That’s a common thing among successful people and great athletes. It goes back to what’s that little thing that drives them and they find those things over and over and over.”

Prescott is the only quarterback from the 2016 draft with his original team. Wentz was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last year, and then he was dealt to the Washington Commanders this offseason. Lynch is playing for the USFL’s Michigan Panthers. Hackenberg was a high school football coach last fall. Brissett is on his fourth team, signing on as the Browns’ backup. Kessler and Cook are no longer in football.

Prescott is about to enter his seventh season. He is secure in who he is and what he has done, but he still carries the draft with him. He has the No. 135 tattooed on the inside of his right wrist.

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“Especially six years in, and you still hear doubting, you hear what people say and knowing in comparisons to where you were with those people and you see the draft and the things that come up and it’s just interesting with people's outlook,” he said. “But blessed that obviously the Cowboys believed in me, trusted in me and made the selection. I mean, every day I try to prove the Cowboys right and make the others, yeah ...”

He didn’t finish the thought.

He didn’t need to.