FRISCO, Texas – Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott soaked in the photo again Wednesday.
Youngest brother embracing oldest brother.
Their middle brother missing from the frame yet ever-present on their minds.
“I don’t know if the world knows what that was truly about,” Dak Prescott said from Cowboys headquarters at a press conference after signing a four-year, $160 million deal. “That moment was truly about my mom and my brother.”
Consider a year ago.
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The Cowboys placed an exclusive franchise tag on Prescott on March 16, 2020, uncertainty about his long-term security spilling into a second offseason. COVID-19 began crashing through American communities and shuttering businesses. Quarantines isolated Americans, wreaking havoc on mental health. Prescott experienced anxiety and depression, he said.
On April 23, 2020, Prescott’s brother Jace died by suicide. He was 31.
Another immediate family member gone. The teddy bear who cared for the boys’ mother in her final days battling colon cancer in 2013 would rejoin her. “Give Ma Dukes a Big Hug and Kiss for Me,” Dak Prescott would post to Instagram last May when Jace’s 32nd birthday coincided with Mother’s Day. Neither was alive to celebrate.
After 2020 featured mental-health struggles, the loss of one brother and a brutal fracture and dislocation of his ankle during a game, 2021 has brought Dak Prescott and his family new life and possibility.
Tad’s son, Jace Mackenzie Prescott, was born on Feb. 26. On Monday, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys ended a two-year stalemate and agreed to a contract that will net him $75 million this year and $126 million guaranteed.
Celebrating with family, and particularly Tad, was a given this week. After agent Todd France called Dak Prescott to announce the terms were agreed upon, Dak jumped up at the news and enveloped Tad in a hug.
“As we were sitting there overcome with emotions and excitement, I felt my mom and my brother as much as I do now,” Dak Prescott said. “Right there, in that moment and as I told Tad, ‘They are here. This is for all us.’
“That is everything we have been through.”
On Wednesday, at a celebratory press conference in the sparkling atrium of the Star, Prescott sat front and center in a navy button-down and plaid blue suit. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was perched roughly six feet to his left, executive vice president Stephen Jones roughly six to his right. A smattering of plush tan chairs flanked either side of the stage, perpendicular to the main act. In the front row to Prescott’s right sat Tad and father Nathaniel on each side of Dak’s girlfriend, Natalie. Prescott’s representation filled a row behind family, including France, who angled toward the client he’d just enriched. A handful of Prescott’s dear friends watched on from the back of the room.
These were the people Dak Prescott leaned on during a tumultuous 2020. These were the first he celebrated with in 2021.
“There are not that many people in this world who know where I started and to where I am now but also know my belief and where I am going to go,” Dak Prescott said. “That is Tad. That is my dad as well. As (Tad) said then, ‘Your life is flashing before my eyes. I see you as a little boy chasing us around wanting to be like us and to know now millions of kids want to be like you.’
“That was a just a special moment, very emotional. A lot of hard work coming together but just knowing it’s the start and beginning to even greater things.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein