Troy Aikman knows a little something about winning, and especially with the Dallas Cowboys. The Hall of Famer and three-time Super Bowl champion has often been visceral about how the team has been run over the past 25 years, but one thing he's never walked back is his belief in Dak Prescott. And as the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback works to knock off rust in training camp following rehab from his season-ending ankle injury suffered last October, Aikman was recently front and center to get a closer look -- having publicly lobbied to see Prescott finally land his historic multi-year deal.
"I would sleep real good if I had Dak Prescott locked up with a big contract and not worrying about his commitment to the team and commitment to winning," Aikman said in January. " ... If you don't have the right guy in that [player CEO] role, then I think you're really going to struggle as an organization, and Dak checks every box in my opinion. And, so, that's why I've said for the last couple of years that I wouldn't hesitate at all to pay him."
Well, the Cowboys did hesitate -- regretfully so, team exec Stephen Jones recently confessed -- but with the financial tug-of-war now in the rearview, it's all about Prescott getting back to prime form that saw him lead the Cowboys offense to the No. 1 spot in the NFL. Having now put eyes on Prescott in camp, Aikman believes he'll pick up right where he left off, and then some.
"He looked great," Aikman told media on Sunday. "He looked really good. I think every time I see him each year he gets better and better. I know that there is a lot of concern about the ankle and how he's doing there.
"Heck, it's probably stronger than his other ankle with everything that he has in it. ...I expect him to have an outstanding season."
And, with that, he expects the Cowboys offense to again exit the stratosphere.
"I think they've got a chance to be really good," Aikman added. "I really do. I hate for that to sound generic. Offensively, I expect them to be as explosive as anybody in the game.
"I know that last year's defense was not that good and there's some concerns there. Until they show it on the field, there's going to be those questions. But I believe that the players that they have, if health -- I hate to say 'even if they stay healthy,' that's true for all teams. But I believe that if the players that they have can play to the ability that we all know that they can play to, I think they should have plenty of defense to complement an explosive offense and win a lot of games."
Needless to say, Prescott agrees, having already told teammates the Cowboys will "light up the league" in 2021 and going a few steps past Aikman's hesitancy regarding the defense, having already predicted the team will have a "very, very special year" -- feeling the defense will now match serve after a round of free agency moves and a defense-heavy draft in April.
Aikman feels that as long as Prescott is under center -- something the Cowboys floundered about without for most of 2020, en route to a 6-10 finish -- Dallas is in position to contend for a Super Bowl. And, for someone who was once tasked with being the face of arguably the most criticized franchise in all of sports, Aikman sees the same type of leadership attributes in Prescott that helped put rings on his own fingers in the 1990s.
"I think he's the best at it," said Aikman. "I honestly do. I put him in a category in a handful of players in this league as far as that goes. What he represents for this franchise, for our league, the type of person and teammate he is.
"I was telling Jerry when I was visiting with him that I really haven't been around many players, either as a broadcaster or as a player myself, that carry themselves the way that he does. I think the Cowboys are really fortunate to have someone like him representing the team."