Dak Prescott’s focus on mental health awareness is about caring for others as well as oneself – The Undefeated

FRISCO, Texas — The producer leaned forward in the chair, aware of Dak Prescott’s jammed schedule and the 90 minutes he’d allotted for the project.

“What’s your hardest?” she asked. “I know we have a time limit.”

“When we’re done,” the Dallas Cowboys quarterback said soberly.

Look, time didn’t matter to Prescott, because he was emotionally involved in the project, the story of Bryce Gowdy’s tragic death.

Gowdy, a four-star receiver from Deerfield Beach, Florida, had verbally promised to play at Georgia Tech.

He died by suicide on December 30, 2019.

It is believed that he was despondent when he left his mother and two siblings — they had no home and commuted between motels and slept in their car — when he went to college.

Prescott tells Long Live Seven: The Bryce “Simba” Gowdy Story, a short film that will be available exclusively through The Undefeated on ESPN+ on November 29, and he set out to deliver a professional performance. The film focuses on mental health and the underexposed topic of suicide among young black men.

Prescott often asked the producer if he read the lines of the script with the correct tone and inflection. When she received suggestions about when to emphasize certain words, Prescott followed her coaching.

He even memorized a short paragraph because he thought it would be more effective if he looked into the camera and spoke the words instead of reading them.

After a few takes he got it. It was the least he could do for Gowdy.

“Bryce, his story resonated with me not only because I lost my brother to suicide, but also because I understood what it is like to be a highly recruited athlete,” Prescott said. “When I heard the story, I just wanted to help.

“It touched me deeply because I felt that if I could just talk to Bryce and maybe give Bryce some wisdom or just explain different situations in life, I could have helped him. I could have helped save his life and save his family.

“And I was incredibly touched by his mother and her continuing his legacy by founding a Bryce Gowdy Foundation and ensuring that he is saving millions of lives through his story.”

That is also Prescott’s mission today.

He understands the power and influence it has as a quarterback for the most valuable franchise in the sport.

The Cowboys are worth $6.5 billion, according to Forbes, and Prescott signed a four-year deal worth $160 million before the start of this season.

He also makes millions as a spokesperson for various companies ranging from Beats by Dre to Sleep Number beds.

Yet he has never forgotten that to whom much is given, much will be required.

“He knows he is more than a football player,” said his brother Tad Prescott. “For Dak so early to find that platform and understand that he is bigger than a footballer is important.

“I know my brother understands that this game isn’t forever and he has a goal after that.”

When Jace Prescott died by suicide in April 2020, his death shocked Prescott and left him wondering if he should have been a better brother. It left him searching for answers he will never find, and it left him overwhelmed and depressed.

“We talk every day. We’re trying to talk to check in—that mental thing again,” said Prescott’s father, Nathaniel. “I am 60 years and older and I was raised not to show your emotions.

“You must be a strong black man. I tried to make sure I curtail that with them. It’s okay to cry. You must cry.”

Prescott understands how people can lose their battle with mental health because they can’t or won’t ask for help — and that it doesn’t matter how much money you make.

“What I want people to learn from my story is, above all, how important it is to be vulnerable, to ask for help and to understand that it’s okay not to be okay. That’s human,” Prescott said.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback, or you’re a high school star about to go to DI college, or whether you’re a mom, a brother, or a cousin. are. . Whatever it is, whatever your job and situation, these thoughts are real.

“These thoughts happen to everyone. And it’s just important to get that help, to get that professional help and to tell your friends and family what you’re going through.”

Prescott and his brothers lost their outlet when their mother, Peggy, died of cancer in 2013. It took them nearly a decade to figure out how to solve their problems without her advice.

“He’s someone who becomes more vulnerable — not just to the public and the media, but within his inner circle,” Tad Prescott said. “He made sure to talk to our friends about being more vulnerable.”

People dealing with mental health problems can find help in many ways. For some, it’s therapy — one-on-one or in a group — while others prefer talking to friends or loved ones.

Prescott has had therapy before. He regularly works with a life coach.

Prescott’s occasional fear is not unique.

So he teamed up with Las Vegas Raiders defensive line man Solomon Thomas, Atlanta Falcons’ Hayden Hurst, and NBA’s Kevin Love to design programs to help young people with mental health problems.

Prominent NFL players Lane Johnson of the Philadelphia Eagles and AJ Brown of the Tennessee Titans have each publicly discussed their battle with depression this season.

“The stigma has always been so long that football players — mostly men — don’t allow us to act on our feelings and we’re supposed to be big men or manly men, and if something’s bothering us, we should. Keep it in,” said Tad Prescott. “When you have guys like Dak, guys like AJ Brown and guys who are football players that kids and other men look up to and who are vulnerable and talk about their feelings, that’s huge.

“It allows that common man setting there looking at a man he idolizes [to] talk about how he feels and it lets him know that it’s okay to tell someone you’re close by that something isn’t right.”

Prescott has the life most people would dream of, but his life is fraught with fear and pressure, just like everyone else’s.

Sometimes he lacks confidence. Correct. Sometimes one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks lacks confidence.

“That’s part of being human when things don’t go the way you want. Sometimes your confidence wants to go up and down and you just have to remember who you are and how you got where you are,” Prescott said. “And I think it’s important, like I said, to find that mental space that’s right for you.”

It’s a message he wished he could have delivered to Bryce.

Born in Dallas, Jean-Jacques Taylor is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL for 25 years and is chairman of JJT Media Group.

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