Five days before his final home game at Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott penned an open letter to fans on Sports Illustrated’s CampusRush.com.
In his essay, Prescott reflected on the five years he’s spent in Starkville and the metamorphosis he has been a part of at Mississippi State.
“While people have given me credit for helping change the football culture,” Prescott wrote. “What they don’t understand is how appreciative I am of my teammates, coaches, the university and the city of Starkville for the role they’ve played in changing me.
“I came here as a 17-year-old in the spring of 2011, and so much has happened since. On the field, I went from an anonymous redshirt to a short-yardage specialist to a Heisman Trophy candidate. Off the field, I showed up as a wild kid and grew up.”
Prescott also touched on the toughest time of his life, when his mother died of colon cancer during the 2013 season. During that tragedy, Prescott found solace and comfort in an outpouring of support from Bulldogs fans. It was that moment led him to to create the saying, “We don’t have fans, we have family.”
“A few weeks after my mom passed in November of 2013, I came back from an injury and entered the Egg Bowl in the second half against Ole Miss,” Prescott wrote. “I’ll never forget the feeling when I walked back out on the field. As I walked into the Egg Bowl, the crowd stood up and clapped like they were enveloping me in a giant hug. I’ve never felt that way before, and I’m not sure I ever will again.”
Prescott knows this hasn’t been a one-sided relationship — his five years in a Bulldogs uniform have changed Mississippi State football. Prescott remembered his first season in Starkville, when the Bulldogs went 7-6 and beat Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl. The stands were packed with Mississippi State fans and their cowbells, thrilled for their football team. Now, Prescott says, fans would be somewhat disappointed in a similar bowl berth. Expectations have changed drastically since he was a freshman.
Yet even with everything Starkville means to him, Prescott’s on-field success meant there was always a chance he would leave early for the NFL. But the end of his junior year convinced Prescott otherwise.
“After last season, I really wasn’t tempted to go to the NFL. What drew me back—what really sealed it—was losing the Alabama game and then losing the Ole Miss game. Especially the Ole Miss game. Then we lost the Orange Bowl to Georgia Tech, and there was no way I could leave Starkville. This place has done so much for me and the school has been there for me. I couldn’t leave after losing three of my last four games. There was no way.”