It seems like just yesterday that Dak Prescott was taking over for the injured Tony Romo as the Dallas Cowboys' starting quarterback.
Since that fateful offseason in 2016, Prescott has enjoyed a successful career under center for America's Team, earning Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year honors, reaching two Pro Bowls and making the postseason four times in seven years.
But cut to July 2023, and Prescott and the Cowboys are nearing a crossroads. Dak is turning 30 years old at the end of the month and entering his eighth year in the pros, and Dallas under Mike McCarthy is still trying to get over the hump in the head coach's fourth season at the helm.
Prescott is aware of the rising stakes as his career at The Star progresses.
"One thousand percent," Dak responded Saturday when asked by Nick Eatman of the team's website if he feels an urgency to win. "Just understanding injuries and what I've been [through] throughout my career and understanding that you don't have forever to play this game. I'm blessed for every moment that I get. Just trying to take it with a sense of urgency."
The Cowboys have enjoyed consecutive 12-win seasons under McCarthy -- winning a division title in 2021 -- and reached the postseason in back-to-back campaigns. But an NFC Championship Game berth still eludes the franchise; Dallas hasn't played for a Super Bowl berth since the 1995 season. It's a frustrating shortcoming for arguably the league's most popular franchise and its most demanding owner in Jerry Jones.
Despite all the pressure, Prescott, hosting his annual football camp this weekend, has perspective. As he approaches his age-30 season, the Cowboys' star quarterback is taking it all in, on and off the field.
"I've always felt older I guess. Just being 30 doesn't necessarily bother me," Prescott told Eatman. "Knowing that I am the old guy, going into Year 8, seeing some of the young guys, some of the rookies and seeing the difference in eight years. It's fun and challenging at times, knowing that I stay connected and stay in the now with what's cool and whatnot. But this game is beautiful. It doesn't matter how old you are because you play this game like a kid."
Prescott and the Cowboys will get back to work on playing like kids on July 25, when Dallas' players report for training camp.