Roger Staubach believes Dak Prescott's setback is just a prelude for a major comeback.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner speaks from experience. Staubach had his own experience with injuries, and he also had to wait until he was 27 years old to make his NFL debut due to his required service time spent with the United States Navy. He knows a little bit about fighting through time off the field with the hopes of returning as an even better player.
He expressed his encouragement to Prescott in recent conversations, and came away with a key impression: Prescott's teammates fully support him.
"Dak is well loved by the team. I see that and I read the paper and everything, and I've talked to Dak, I have talked to him since his injury, and he can't wait to get back," Staubach said during an appearance on Good Morning Football. "I told him I separated my shoulder one year and missed most of the season, and it seems like it takes an eternity to get better again but it goes fast. Dak will come back strong. I really feel that he is not only a fine football player, but he has got the team behind him, and I think they really do miss him right now."
Dallas undoubtedly misses Prescott. The Cowboys have been forced to play with a rotating cast at signal-caller, going from veteran backup Andy Dalton to rookie Ben DiNucci, and then Garrett Gilbert in Week 9. Dalton is expected to return when cleared and resume his starting role, all while Prescott travels the long road from surgery to rehab and eventually a return to the field.
Staubach's path from the Naval Academy to an NFL field was a unique one. After winning the Heisman Trophy and graduating from the Naval Academy in 1965, Staubach spent a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam as a Supply Corps officer. He returned to the United States in 1967, but needed to wait two more years before he could move on from the service and begin his career in the NFL.
In the time between, Staubach found space to work out while in Vietnam, and played on a naval air station team in Pensacola, Florida. Staubach credited his participation on the team as something that "helped, because I was in quite a few games" which kept him sharp and proved to him that he still wanted to pursue football as a career following his time in the service. He also used the majority of his annual military leave to participate in the Cowboys' rookie camp, but couldn't fully commit to pro football until he was officially finished with his service.
After that camp, Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry told Staubach the Cowboys wanted him to join the team whenever it was possible. That was exactly what Staubach needed to hear to convince himself football was a viable post-military option.
"Once he said that, I made up my mind I was going to leave the service and play for the Dallas Cowboys," Staubach said Wednesday.
At 27, Staubach began his career that saw him rotating with Craig Morton before leading the Cowboys to a Super Bowl victory, and eventually led to enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His four-year wait was much longer than Prescott's will be, but their challenges are similar.
Neither are without hurdles, and while Prescott won't be forced to find a way to maintain his ability while serving in an entirely different role, he will have to watch his team from afar. Staubach is confident Prescott will do well when he returns. Prescott won't be able to return until 2021, but if it's anything like Staubach's journey to the field as a Cowboy, it will be worth the wait.