Haughton High School principal Gene Couvillion hears the same comment in one form or another whenever he’s out and about.
“How about Dak Prescott!”
Last week, a fellow church member came up to Couvillion as he was walking out of a Wednesday night service and started talking to him about, yes, you guessed it, Prescott.
“He was relaying a story about how he never watched pro football,” Couvillion said. “He didn’t like pro football. But he can’t wait until the next Cowboys game.”
And it doesn’t just happen in Haughton.
“You can’t go anywhere that when somebody finds out you’re from Haughton, they want to talk about Dak,” Couvillion said.
Prescott’s popularity is even reflected on the Bossier Press-Tribune’s website and Facebook page. Stories on Prescott are among the most viewed on bossierpress.com and have received hundreds of “likes” on the Facebook page.
Prescott, of course, is the rookie quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He’s had a lot of firsts this season and will have another Sunday when Dallas (13-3), the top seed in the NFC, hosts No. 4 Green Bay (11-6) at AT&T Stadium in a divisional playoff game (3:40 p.m., Fox).
Prescott is a 2011 graduate of Haughton. In 2010, he led the Bucs to their first undefeated regular season. Haughton lost to eventual state champion Franklinton 49-41 in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
To say he’s created some excitement in the Haughton community is putting it mildly.
“There are a lot of Cowboys fans in Haughton now,” said Haughton head football coach Jason Brotherton, who was the offensive coordinator during Prescott’s two years as a starter.
Like Couvillion, Brotherton said people want to talk to him about Prescott all the time. And it’s not just Haughton residents who are interested.
“We’ve had random people just from Texas that have stopped at the Haughton exit and gotten directions (to the school),” he said. “Then they just went by the school to see it. That’s happened about three times.”
Last week, Brotherton was in a store in Haughton and an employee told him that during the Thanksgiving break someone came in from Texas and asked where they could get a Haughton High hat.
Prescott was drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft out of Mississippi State last April. When Cowboys backup quarterback Kellen Moore broke his right ankle early in training camp, Prescott was elevated to the No. 2 position on the depth chart behind veteran Tony Romo.
When Romo broke a bone in his back in a preseason game, all of a sudden Prescott was the starting quarterback for “America’s Team.”
Prescott was outstanding in preseason games, but there were still plenty of doubters going into the regular season.
The Cowboys lost their first game to the New York Giants 20-19. But then they reeled off 11 straight victories.
Needless to say, Prescott’s success created a lot of interest in him and therefore Haughton. TV stations from the Dallas-Forth Worth area came to Haughton to do stories as did ESPN.
“All of them stayed for two days,” Brotherton said. “They kept us busy for awhile.”
But Brotherton and the other Haughton coaches were more than happy to talk about him.
“It was good publicity for our school,” Brotherton said. “He’s a guy we all like and has done well and he’s a good representative for our school.”
Prescott got almost as much attention for what he did on the sideline in one game as he did on the field.
After drinking out of a paper cup on the bench, he tried to toss the cup into a trash can behind him. It didn’t quite make it, so Prescott went over, picked up the cup and put it in the can.
The video of him doing that went viral. Brotherton wasn’t surprised at what Prescott did.
“We don’t have to worry about him embarrassing us a whole lot,” he said. “We know he’s going to do well. That’s about way more than playing on the field. That’s just character and the kind of person he is.”
Couvillion said Prescott’s success means a lot to Haughton High because of the example he sets now and set while he was a student at the school.
“In high school we have all kinds of kids,” he said. “And in Haughton High most of them are great kids. When you see somebody that’s set an example when he was there and he continues to live that and he’s reached such phenomenal success, it’s just amazing to hear when they say he’s from Haughton, Louisiana. That’s a big feather in our cap.”
Couvillion also likes the fact that Prescott is a product of Haughton.
“Having played football at Haughton High School and seeing it back when I played and we won a state championship, to have a kid come up in our program and in our school system means more as well,” he said. “We didn’t have to go out and actively recruit Dak. Dak grew up a Haughton Buccaneer, just like Joe Delaney.”
After an outstanding college career at Northwestern State, Delaney was named the AFC Rookie of the Year in 1981 with the Kansas City Chiefs. Tragically, Delaney died while trying to rescue three kids from drowning in a pond in Monroe in 1983.
Brotherton said Prescott’s success is somewhat surreal.
“I remember when he got drafted our thought was hopefully he’ll make the team, and then it’s hopefully he can get to a point where he can dress out and not be on the practice squad,” he said. “And then when he does get named the starter hopefully he’ll do OK. And now the guy’s going to the Pro Bowl and the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. It’s really amazing that that’s happened.”
While a lot of people are naturally surprised at how well Prescott has performed, Brotherton said they really shouldn’t be.
“When you think back, when he was with us we had our best (regular) season ever,” he said. “When he was at Mississippi State they had their best season. If (the Cowboys) win the Super Bowl, it would be surprising but truth be known it really shouldn’t surprise us. He’s been successful and he’s been a winner everywhere.”
Couvillion and Brotherton said there has been some discussion about getting Prescott back to Haughton after the season in some capacity, probably to speak to the athletes and other students.
Prescott gained a measure of fame at Mississippi State, appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice. But as the quarterback of a highly-successful Dallas Cowboys team, he’s become famous on a different level.
“We kind of laugh a little bit about people that want us to see if we can get Dak to do this or Dak to do that,” Brotherton said. “But he’s got a lot more to do and on his plate right now.”
Plus, some of Prescott’s family lives in Vinton in South Louisiana. During the Cowboys bye week, he told reporters he was going to visit his grandmother.
Brotherton said a lot of people took that to mean that he was coming to Haughton and asked if he would be at the Bucs’ game. But Prescott’s grandmother lives in Vinton.
The last time Prescott was at the school was a few days before the draft. He was working out and needed some receivers to throw to.
Brotherton rounded up a few of his players and told them that, hey, this guy is going to be playing in the NFL and needs someone to throw to. At the time, he said they didn’t think it was a big deal because they had talked to Prescott on numerous occasions.
“It would probably be different now,” Brotherton said.
Brotherton and Couvillion both went to see the Cowboys play the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 9. Brotherton didn’t get to see Prescott but Couvillion did for a brief period.
Haughton offensive coordinator Kyle Wilkerson and former head coach Rodney Guin have also both been to games and gotten to talk to him.
Couvillion said he realized the extent of Prescott’s fame when his grandson sent him a photo of an OYO Sports mini-figurine of Prescott in his Dallas Cowboys uniform he’d sent off for.
The figurine is made of Lego-like blocks.
“You’ve reached a pretty good pinnacle when you can be a Lego,” Couvillion said with a laugh.
Russell Hedges is Sports Editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org