The hottest quarterback in the country plays in the SEC, but he doesn’t play at Alabama, Auburn or Texas A&M.
The distinction belongs to Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, whose dazzling performance in last Saturday’s win over Texas A&M propelled him to the top of the Heisman pecking order while vaulting the upstart Bulldogs into the national title picture.
Prescott, a junior from Louisiana, has already led State to two wins over top 10 teams — a feat never become accomplished in Starkville.
Here’s what you need to know about the surprise Heisman frontrunner:
1. His Heisman Odds Are Skyrocketting
Prescott played well enough in 2013 — rushing for 13 touchdowns and passing for 10 more — that he was at least on some people’s radar as a long-shot Heisman contender to start the season.
But what’s happened over the last three weeks has been stunning: Prescott has emerged on some lists as the Heisman frontrunner. Sports Illustrated has Prescott atop its weekly Heisman Watch, and Bovada gave him 5/2 odds to win the award, trailing only Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who was later suspended indefinitely pending an investigation into whether he was paid to sign memorabilia.
A snapshot of the top of Bovada’s list prior to Gurley’s suspension:
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: 8/5
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: 5/2
Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn: 11/2
Marcus Mariotta, QB, Oregon: 8/1
Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame: 10-1
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska: 12-1
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: 20-1
Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M: 20-1
Melvin Gordon, QB, Wisconsin: 20-1
As Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel points out in the video above, Prescott has his work cut out for him: After hosting Auburn on Saturday, they still have two more games against top 10 teams, and both are on the road: November 15 at Alabama (ranked seventh in the AP poll) and November 29 at arch rival Ole Miss (tied with the Bulldogs for third.)
2. His Mom Died Last Year of Colon Cancer & He Honors Her After Every Touchdown
After every touchdown Prescott scores, he points toward the sky to honor his mom, Peggy, who died last year after a long battle with colon cancer.
Prescott’s touching gesture has inspired a hashtag — #pointwithdak — which which Bulldogs fans are encouraging one another to point to the sky along with Prescott in a show of support.
Peggy Prescott’s passing was especially hard on Dak, the youngest of Peggy’s three sons and the woman Dak says instilled in him a moral compass that has guided him at Mississippi State.
As Yahoo!’s Pat Forde wrote in a recent profile of Prescott, coaches who recruited Dak first had to convince Peggy that they were worthy of her son.
Peggy was a football fan whose voice could be heard from the stands at youth-league games, and she offered some unsparing critiques to her kids when they did not play well. But she also was protective. When recruiters came to visit Dak at Haughton High School or at home, she cut through all the flattery to ask one standard question: “Why should I let my 17-year-old son go to your school?”
Prescott talked about his special relationship with his mom — whom he called his “best friend” — with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi in a report you can watch here:
3. He Grew Up in a Trailer Park in Louisiana
According to a profile of Prescott by the New York Daily News’ Kevin Armstrong, Dak, Peggy and Dak’s two brothers — Tad and Jace — grew up in a trailer at Pine Creek Mobile Estates in Princeton, Louisiana , a community in the northwest corner of the state about 30 miles east of Shreveport.
As Armstrong writes, Peggy — who managed a truck stop on Interstate 220 — would have been beaming with pride after Dak put on a show September 20 in a 34-20 win at LSU. The win included a 56-yard touchdown run that you can watch in the video above.
The late Margaret (Peggy) Prescott never got to witness the win she would have preened about the casino, restaurant and truck stop inside the I-220 Travel Plaza she managed. She walked and worked everyday in Tiger country, raising her three boys — Tad, Jace and Dak (short for Dakota) — in a trailer at the Pine Creek Mobile Estates in Princeton, La. Tad and Jace shared one bedroom; for the longest time, Dak and his mother shared the other. Peggy provided for all of them and spoiled her youngest son.
“Every time I looked around it seemed like Dak had a new bike,” Tad said.
4. He Was Lightly Recruited Out of High School
Prescott was a star dual-threat quarterback at Haughton High School, and he had several Division I scholarship offers to show for it. But by Heisman frontrunner status, Prescott was lightly recruited.
As Forde writes, Mississippi State and TCU were the only Power Five conference schools to initially show interest, with other offers coming from a collection of mid-majors.
He said Mississippi State was the first school to offer a scholarship that summer. The others: nearby Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette, McNeese State, Memphis, North Texas, Northwestern State and TCU. The Horned Frogs were the only program that offered anything near the level of program and prestige as Mississippi State.
It wasn’t until after Prescott had committed to Mississippi State that LSU showed interest. According to Forde, Prescott went on a visit to Baton Rouge, but ended up staying true to his commitment to Mississippi State and coach Dan Mullen.
5. He Wears No. 15 in Honor of Tim Tebow
Prescott reminds a lot of people of a different dual-threat quarterback who dominated the SEC while running Mullen’s offense.
His game is similar to that of Tim Tebow, who thrived at Florida when Mullen was the Gators’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, winning a national titles in 2006 and 2008 and the Heisman as a sophomore in 2007.
The Associated Press notes that Prescott spent some time with Tebow when the ex-Gator interviewed him as part of the SEC Network’s coverage of the Bulldogs’ game against Texas A&M.
“I asked for No. 15 when I first came to Mississippi State because of Tim Tebow,” Prescott told the AP. “Our games are kind of similar, but I’m a different player. I have my own type of game, but I want to mimic him in a way.”