Dak Prescott’s commitment to Mississippi State seemed so unsteady in the fall of 2010 that his family and friends began switching sides.
Tad Prescott told his brother, “Go to LSU.”
Even Peggy Prescott — a known LSU “hater,” Tad said — had been convinced that LSU was the place for her youngest and most gifted football player.
LSU coaches had turned up their recruiting efforts on Dak during his senior year at Haughton High. The quarterback took his official visit on the weekend that LSU beat Alabama 24-21 in Tiger Stadium — a day that ended with Dak being paraded through a celebratory LSU locker room, his high school principal, Gene Couvillion, awestruck alongside him.
“He was a kid, and I was taken in by it,” Couvillion said. “I was enamored by it.”
A day later, Dak returned home to north Louisiana.
“He came back and said, ‘I’m a Bulldog,’ ” Tad said.
When No. 8 LSU (3-0) hosts Mississippi State on Saturday in Tiger Stadium, Prescott will be wearing maroon.
The Louisiana boy is returning to his home state for one of the most magnified games in recent Mississippi State history. The Bulldogs (3-0) are just outside the Top 25 and are a trendy upset pick of the week nationally.
Prescott enters as their do-it-all quarterback who caught, threw and ran for a score last week, a guy who’s on the fringe of Heisman Trophy talks.
You don’t have to tell LSU.
“Everybody’s heard of him,” cornerback Tre’Davious White said. “He was the big thing up there in the Shreveport area.”
Prescott, a redshirt junior, is from Haughton, a town of about 3,400 people in Bossier Parish, a 20-minute drive east of Shreveport.
He never played anything other than quarterback at Haughton, former coach Rodney Guin said. That includes his junior-high days.
Prescott’s fame grew bigger with each game, with each snazzy scramble, with each fiery touchdown pass. He ran over high school players, ran around them and threw past them.
Some compare the now-230-pound Prescott to former Heisman winner Tim Tebow of Florida. He has the same jersey number (15) and makes similar plays in a similar offense. And Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was Florida’s offensive coordinator during the Tebow years.
Guin sees the same guy on TV as he did four years ago on Friday nights.
“They do a lot of the stuff we did. We ran the spread, one-back, quarterback draws,” Guin said. “It wasn’t a big change.”
No Prescott performance looms larger than his final regular-season game of high school.
Playing with a torn knee ligament, Prescott led Haughton over Parkway to win the district title and cap the school’s first undefeated regular season. He threw for 396 yards that night.
Chris Hill was Parkway’s coach. It was one of the most ballyhooed matchups ever in the area. The stadium was full three hours before kickoff, and concession stands ran out of food two hours before the game started, Hill said.
“I think he ran the ball one time against us,” the coach said. “The way he threw it, he didn’t need to.”
Prescott’s legacy lives on. He’s turned many north Louisianans into Mississippi State fans.
“I even have a Mississippi State flag in my yard,” Couvillion said. “My neighbor asked, ‘What’s with that flag in your yard?’ ”
Some believe Prescott helped open the door in north Louisiana for the dual-threat quarterback. Former Parkway and current LSU backup Brandon Harris — a good friend of Prescott’s — followed him as another highly touted dual-threat QB, a rarity in that area.
“In our parish, we had not had many (quarterbacks) sign with SEC schools,” Guin said. “He was the first one we’ve had that we ran a whole bunch.”
Prescott committed to the Bulldogs in July before his senior year. Guin and Prescott were driving back from a Mississippi State summer camp when State coaches called Guin with the offer.
Prescott committed almost immediately. After all, no other major schools had offered him as a quarterback. LSU recruited him as an athlete — a possible safety.
“His whole life, people told him he wasn’t going to be a quarterback,” said Tad Prescott, Dak’s older brother by six years who now lives in Orange, Texas. “LSU coaches told him at first, ‘You’re not an SEC quarterback.’ ”
Peggy Prescott wanted her son to play quarterback. She had always wanted that since first seeing Dak play the position at the junior high level.
“That’s my Heisman winner,” Peggy used to say.
Peggy Prescott succumbed to colon cancer last November. Dak missed the first week of practice at Mississippi State and flew home to be with brothers Tad and Jace and dad Nathaniel. She died the Sunday before a key matchup against Texas A&M in Starkville.
Family members at the funeral asked Dak whether he would miss the game.
“My mom would whoop my (butt) now if she knew I missed practice,” Tad remembered Dak telling them. “I can’t miss the game.”
Peggy Prescott was a passionate mother and a football fan.
“My mom had one tattoo,” Tad said. “It was of a football.”
Peggy had an interesting way of naming her three boys. Tad, short for Thaddeus, was named after a soap opera character. Jace was named after a grocery store clerk, and Rayne Dakota Prescott was named after one of three bulls on the cartoon show “Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa.”
“Strongest bull was Dakota (Dude),” Tad said. “Sure enough, she got a bull.”
Tad isn’t afraid to admit that the Prescotts were a family who rooted against LSU. In fact, they never paid attention to the Tigers until LSU began recruiting Dak as something other than a safety.
That came his senior year, when Dak put up such gaudy numbers — 3,500 total yards, 56 touchdowns — and was the hero in that regular-season finale.
Coach Les Miles visited the Prescotts and delivered a message: “Dak isn’t the same quarterback when we started recruiting him,” Miles told the family, according to Tad.
“They came on pretty hard there at the end,” Dak said. “They recruited my mom almost more than they recruited me.”
“For a while, we thought he’d de-commit from State and end up in Baton Rouge,” Tad said.
That, of course, never happened. He signed with Mississippi State a few months later.
“He felt he had to be loyal to them,” Guin said. “I don’t think he regrets that.”
Another reason he signed with the Bulldogs, Tad said: “He wanted to go to Mississippi State and get people to realize what Mississippi State was.”
For now, Mississippi State is a team that has lost to LSU 14 straight times.
Dak hopes to change that.
“He hasn’t done what he set out to do,” Tad said, “but he’s on that road.”