Dak Prescott's first major hurdle after ankle surgery? Wiggling his toes again

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On Thursday night, Dak Prescott will take the field for the first time in 333 days. The Dallas Cowboys will be taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2021 NFL season opener, and the Bucs' championship coronation is the big storyline of the night. But Prescott's remarkable comeback can't be overlooked, either.

Prescott sat down with NBC's Maria Taylor to talk about the the game, his expectations for the Cowboys following a brutal season and also shedding more light on the tragedy he endured with the suicide of his brother, a subject on which he's bared his soul several times recently.

The Cowboys QB also revisited the very early moments of the fractured ankle he suffered last Oct. 11 that cost him the rest of the season and quickly sent him into grueling rehabilitation. 

Reality smacked Prescott in the face right away.

"Why can’t I feel my toes? Will this foot ever feel the same?" he told Taylor, indicating that he'd lost feeling in his right foot. And it lasted days.

Last October, Dak Prescott couldn't feel his toes following a broken ankle. On Thursday, he'll lead the Dallas Cowboys into the 2021 NFL season opener at Tampa Bay. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Last October, Dak Prescott couldn't feel his toes following a broken ankle. On Thursday, he'll lead the Dallas Cowboys into the 2021 NFL season opener at Tampa Bay. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

For a quarterback who has been a starter since the start of his rookie season and who was on a path toward career-best numbers in 2020, Prescott suddenly needed to recalibrate his athletic goals.

"Before walking, actually it was about wiggling my toes," he said. "I actually had the trainers or my girlfriend tap each toe, and I’d close my eyes and try to figure out which toe they were tapping, because I couldn’t feel it."

It was a frustrating process. But it was his first major hurdle in the process. Clearing that allowed him to move onto more basic tasks — and some things Prescott might never have attempted otherwise.

"When I finally got that right, (then) it was about walking," he said. "Then it was about picking up marbles with your toes, picking up the cough drops; picking them up and not missing the cup (to put them in). 

"The moment those little steps came, I knew it was game-changing. Whatever was in front of me, I was going to knock it down."

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Dak Prescott's inspiration the day he got hurt

In a wild turn of events, the day Prescott was injured last year was the same day that Alex Smith made his triumphant return to the field

Both events were unexpected. Prescott's injury was a fluke thing, of course. And so was the injury that knocked Washington Football Team starting QB Kyle Allen from the game against the Los Angeles Rams after Allen took a shot to the helmet.

That catapulted Smith into the game right before halftime, and he'd finish out the game in a gutsy performance under difficult circumstances. 

During Alex Smith's comeback game, another NFC East quarterback was watching and drawing inspiration as his road to recovery was just beginning. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
During Alex Smith's comeback game, another NFC East quarterback was watching and drawing inspiration as his road to recovery was just beginning. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Prescott got hurt late in the third quarter of the Cowboys' win over the New York Giants, and when he was back in the locker room, he couldn't help but draw inspiration from a comeback that had just come full circle — while Prescott's journey back was just beginning.

"I was watching him take the field — on Andy Dalton’s iPad — the same (week) I got hurt in," he said. "So from later that night, to know that I had just watched somebody full circle come back from something that was way worse than mine was because of the infection, it was (me thinking), somebody’s already done it. 

"It just made the process and the faith seem that much more attainable. Alex Smith has already done it, done it with a great attitude, and I knew I could get through it because he had."

Now Prescott might be feeling what Smith did on that day come Thursday night.

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