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Prescott Unwitting Trailblazer On Mental Health

KA Sports Photos via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By all rights, Dak Prescott is the kind of guy that, in a sports context, I should hate.

For openers, he’s the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, a team on the very short list of teams that I despise, for historical and geographical reasons, and darn it, for common sense.

Prescott is quite talented, In four years in Dallas, he’s thrown for almost 16,000 yards and nearly 100 touchdowns. For that, he’ll earn about $32 million this year with the promise of likely $40 million next year, when he’ll be 28 years old.

So, add rich and gifted to young and handsome and famous and you have plenty of reasons for envy. And yet, I can’t hate Dak Prescott. In fact, in many ways, he’s a hero.


This past week, Prescott revealed that he has struggled with feelings of anxiety this year. Upon hearing these words, no doubt, your immediate reaction might be “Welcome to 2020, Dak. Come on in. The pool is crowded.”

But, Prescott should be noted, if not celebrated, for overcoming significant barriers to acknowledging his status.

First, in an athletic context, there is a definite stigma against admitting a weakness, much less one that doesn’t show up on an injury list. Sports figures are expected to be stoic and strong, to suck it up, to shut up and play.

If nothing else, the millions of dollars these athletes make, presumably for playing kids games, are supposed to serve as incentives to keep their mental anguish internal, if they’re even allowed to have such pain. 

After all, how bad can life be when you’re living out a dream and getting ridiculously paid to do it?

But Prescott’s struggles would hardly be alleviated by his money. His mother, Peggy, died of cancer while he was in college at Mississippi State. 

And, in April, his older brother, Jace, committed suicide while public speculation raged over whether Dak Prescott would sign a new contract in Dallas.

In that interview, Prescott said he experienced anxiety throughout the year mixed with depression oddly enough just before his brother died. Prescott said his brother had lived with their mother and witnessed her battles with her illness first-hand, apparently never dealing with those emotions himself.

Indeed, Jace Prescott’s struggles to acknowledge his inner demons are an all-too common occurrence in the Black community. African Americans are often discouraged from acknowledging their mental health issues. 

Sadly, and often tragically, the idea of speaking to a therapist or psychologist or psychiatrists is frequently anathema for many people of color.

And, to make Prescott’s matters worse, some troglodyte named Skip Bayless had the temerity to say on a nationally televised sports talk show that he couldn’t respect Prescott’s admission because quarterback is, in his words, the ultimate leadership position in sports.

In Bayless’s warped perspective, a man who admits a problem can’t be a leader. In truth, Dak Prescott’s humanity probably saved a life, which makes him more of a man and a leader than Skip Bayless or people who think that way will ever be.

I still don’t like the Dallas Cowboys, but I will always be a Dak Prescott fan.   

And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.


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Twitter: @SportsAtLarge



Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.