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On Sunday, Dallas Cowboys players, coaches, staff, and fans watched in horror as quarterback Dak Prescott was awkwardly tackled by New York’s Logan Ryan, and went down to the turf with a grotesque ankle injury. There was no doubt the severity of it was season-ending for the fifth-year quarterback. 

Naturally, there has been speculation about Prescott’s future with the Cowboys after being unable to reach a long-term deal with the club during the offseason. Could that have been Prescott’s last play in Big D? While Prescott faces months of rehabilitation and his future with the team is uncertain, one thing, however, is abundantly clear. If Prescott never takes another snap in a Cowboys uniform, he forever cemented his legacy this offseason doing something that affected many people beyond the world of sports in a way much more important than a game ever could. 

Dak Prescott suffers season-ending injury

Dak Prescott posted record-setting numbers in the first four games of the 2020 NFL season. However, in a Week 5 matchup against the division rival New York Giants, Prescott put up rather pedestrian numbers midway through the third quarter completing 14-of-21 passes for 166 yards. His biggest highlight came when he caught a touchdown pass on a trick play to close out the first half. No one could have imagined that would be the last time he would set foot in an end zone the rest of the season.

With just over six minutes remaining in the third, Prescott took off on a run toward the left sideline with Giants defender Logan Ryan in pursuit. As Prescott stiff-armed Ryan, the safety lunged forward with all of his body weight to bring down the 230-pound-plus quarterback. 

As often happens in a sport where large men routinely crash into other large men at high speeds, injuries are a part of the game. Some of those injuries are worse than others. And some of them are downright grotesque as they result in body parts pointing in the wrong direction. That’s precisely what happened to Prescott as he suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. It was immediately evident that Dak Prescott’s injury was season-ending. 

Dak Prescott opens up about his depression

With Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys failing to come to terms on a long-term deal during the offseason, some have speculated that play could have been his last in Dallas. If that does, in fact, come true in the future, Prescott’s legacy is secure, and it’s not because of anything he did on the football field.

Instead, it’s for what he did in August when he opened up in an interview on an episode of “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” about his brother’s death by suicide earlier this year and admitted how he had endured his own struggles with anxiety and depression earlier this year.

“I didn’t necessarily know what I was going through. I hadn’t been sleeping at all,” Prescott admitted. “It showed me how vulnerable we have to be as humans—how open we have to be. Our adversities, our struggles, what we go through is always gonna be too much for ourselves and maybe too much for even one or two people, but never too much for a community or never too much for the people in the family that you love. So you have to share these things.”

Prescott’s words make an impact

Dak Prescott was lauded by many for sharing his story and being transparent about a sensitive subject that largely goes undiscussed because of the stigma attached to it. Interestingly, Prescott got support from an unlikely source following the Cowboys’ miracle comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2.

Immediately following the contest, Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst made a beeline for Prescott. Once he got to the quarterback, he told him how much he appreciated him sharing his story. 

“Hey, I’ve got a lot of respect for what you did, came out and talked about,” Hurst told Prescott. “Me and my mom have a foundation about suicide prevention. Respect the hell outta you for talking about it, man.”

Hurst survived an attempted suicide in 2016 and started the Hayden Hurst Foundation as a result. At the end of the pair’s brief postgame conversation, Prescott suggested they might collaborate one day. That one interaction made headlines. And it was yet another moment where Prescott used his platform to shine a light on mental illness. 

If Dak Prescott sharing his own experience with depression and anxiety affected another NFL player, it’s safe to say it more than likely impacted countless others. That’s why it doesn’t matter if Prescott ever dons the Dallas Cowboys jersey ever again. His legacy is secure because his words on mental illness have already had a far-reaching effect much greater than anything he could ever achieve on the football field.  

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor at the free Crisis Text Line.