Dak Prescott's 2016 journey is almost too unbelievable to be true. The rookie went from fourth-round developmental prospect to Tony Romo's backup and then Cowboys starter before turning in one of the greatest (regular) seasons a rookie quarterback has ever had. He made the Pro Bowl after completing 67.8 percent of his passes at 8.0 yards per attempt, while throwing 23 touchdowns (and rushing for six more) against only four interceptions.
He's also the leader of the Cowboys, having won over everyone in the locker room -- from Dez Bryant to Jason Witten and Ezekiel Elliott to Cole Beasley. Part of the reason he's been able to form such strong bonds with everyone on the team, Prescott says, is because he's biracial.
"I grew up in Haughton, Louisiana," Prescott told USA TODAY. "I go to my white grandparents' house, and then I cross the railroad tracks and hang out with my black grandma. We have English teachers on my white side. My grandpa is a principal. And then you go to the other side and people have been in jail.
"I was put in all those different situations. I've been in situations where I was the only black guy. We're in a time now where nobody wants to see that. But it still happens. Depending on where you come from, it happens. To be able to wipe that clean and see and live both sides, it's just who I am. Being mixed allows me to connect with everyone."
The Cowboys' offensive line is made up of two black players and three white ones. Their receiving corps is a mix of black and white as well. Dak says his experience growing up where he did and how he did allows him to seamlessly move between the groups of players in the locker room.
"Being bi-racial and being from the country, I can talk to guys like Travis Frederick from Wisconsin and Doug Free from Wisconsin," he said. "And then I can go over and talk to Dez Bryant. I mean, think about the two different standpoints you need to have a real conversation with both, to really understand what they've been through. I don't think many can do it. For me, it's not hard. I'm blessed because it's natural."
Several teammates back Prescott up on this.
- Anonymous white teammate: "Not to crap on Tony (Romo), because he has done so much for this team. But no matter how hard he'll try, there are just some things that he can't do, some ways that he can't connect with some of the guys in here like Dak can."
- Multi-racial safety (and former practice squad quarterback) Jameill Showers: "People who were raised in an all-white town, it's hard for them to relate to black people or other cultures. That's why you can sometimes see divides in locker rooms. Dak gets a feel for both sides to know what he can and can't relate to -- what is and isn't offensive."
The most important thing Dak cited in helping connect with players on the team, though, is simply winning. Were it not for that, Tony Romo would likely still be the well-liked leader of the Cowboys.
"That's the easiest way to get accepted," Prescott said. "If you're good on the field, f--- yeah people are going to want to follow you. They want to hang out with you because you've got success. The rest of the stuff, it can't be taught."