As Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott concluded his speech after receiving the 2022 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, he did his signature point to the sky, saying “Love you, Mama.”
Prescott’s mother, Peggy, passed in November 2013 after battling colon cancer. She had been Prescott’s driving force, and he knows she would’ve loved being in Arizona watching her son become the fourth Cowboy ever to win the prestigious award for his contributions off the field.
“She’d be crying,” Prescott told Yahoo! Sports. “So proud. She was a crier when happy moments came. I know she’s smiling down.”
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Prescott has been named the 2016 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year as well as a two-time Pro Bowler during his pro career thus far. There also were various awards and accomplishments throughout his high school days and his time at Mississippi State.
But this award hits differently because of what it means to him and his family.
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“It’s No. 1,” he explained. “When your mom gets diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and she’s given months to live and give you that news and tells you, ‘Hey: All greats have a story. Allow me to be your story,’ that’s what this award means to me.’”
All 32 NFL teams nominate one person for the award each year, and it’s hard for the Cowboys not to send Prescott to the podium each time, considering what his Faith, Fight, Finish Foundation does for the community.
The foundation doesn’t just focus on one entity, but instead has four pillars: colon cancer research, mental health and suicide prevention, bridging the gap between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and offering assistance to those facing life-challenge adversities.
The mental health and suicide prevention task of his foundation stems from his older brother, Jace, committing suicide in 2020. Prescott immediately focused on awareness, and even partnered with the New York Jets’ Solomon Thomas, who was also nominated for the award this year, to shed light on the National Suicide Prevention Hotline’s move to a three-digit phone number (988) that anyone can call.
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Prescott proved that it’s not just the Dallas community he wants to reach, as he was among other nominees who visited a Phoenix Boys & Girls Club Friday morning, just hours after winning the award.
“My story’s not for me. I say that all the time. I’m living the life that God wants me to live,” Prescott said.
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Prescott joined Jason Witten, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman as the only Cowboys to be named the Walter Payton Man of the Year. For the remainder of his career, a Man of the Year patch will be on his jersey to commemorate the award.