In appreciation of Dak Prescott, Eli Apple and the incredibly poised rookie class of 2016

Wednesday December 14th, 2016

You get drafted and come to a brand new city. Expectations are high. Opinions are vast. You enter this bubble where suddenly everyone wants something from you. Your entire life is the front page in an open book. You're still growing, as a person as a man. After all, you’re only 21 or 22.

Your growth is scrutinized. Your process is rushed. At the same time, you're just trying to find your rhythm, get acclimated to your new normal. One game you're a treasure. The following, you're trash. This game will chew you up and spit you out. That's why it's important to know who you are and whose you are. As mom and friend, it's my responsibility to help my son stay grounded. Football players are physically strong men; they seem bigger than life, yet some can display the maturity of a middle schooler when things don’t go their way or opinions are unfavorable. So when you see a young player who's mentally tough and poised, you have to respect that.

NFL
NFL playoff picture: Seeds, standings and division titles on the line through Week 14

This year's NFL rookie class has been impressive, not just because of how well they've performed and immediately helped their teams get better, but because of the maturity most of them have shown. I've always respected my son’s emotional consistency and poise, and I take pride that others, especially his position coach and defensive coordinator, have noticed as well. This game is not easy, and for top drafted rookies, the pressure is everywhere. But Black Eli has always handled pressure situation well. He understands football is what he does, not who he is. He understands that true success is being comfortable in your own skin and true power is the ability to show restraint. He’s not alone.

Joey Bosa was slammed by the media and a teammate because he demanded all of his owed bonuses in a time suitable for him. He didn’t try to convince people to see his point of view. He stuck to what he believed he deserved and got it. He’s now performing at a high level. Bosa didn’t allow what others were saying deter him from what he wanted, nor did he, unlike the Chargers, try to negotiate in the media. When Ezekiel Elliott ran for just 51 yards in his first game, many analysts called him overrated, among other things, though it was only his first game. Now he’s having a record breaking season and is a legitimate MVP candidate. Carson Wentz has displayed the patience of Job in Philly. Meanwhile, Jared Goff survived the petty tyranny of Jeff Fisher and handled being benched better than most. Imagine starting a new job and every aspect of your work process is scrutinized. Every week, my mentions are filled with misery addicted people who feel the need to tweet me how awful they think my son is at football, along with other insults. That’s when first amendment meets the block or ignore button.

As the regular season winds down, I've been proud of Black Eli both on and off the field. He went to Pittsburgh and got his first NFL interception when he stole the ball from a Steeler. I’ve been proud of his growth each week. But I've been even more proud of the way Eli has handled himself and contributed consistently as the Giants defense has continued to get better and proved elite against Dallas this week, holding the Cowboys to just one touchdown and ending their 11-game winning streak. Most importantly, I was proud that Black Eli didn’t allow an exhilarating, crucial win to throw off his even-keeled psyche. Win or lose, he’s the same person.

Following the Giants win over Dallas, the quarterback under center for the Cowboys, who took them on a 11-game winning streak, was under fire with some asking is it time to bring back Tony Romo. Really? But that's the nature of sports: short sightedness. Dak Prescott didn't have his best game when he ran into a prolific Giants defense, but the kid is still a baller. More importantly, Dak's poise, humility and maturity have been most impressive. Coming from Mississippi State to the bubble of the Dallas Cowboys, he hasn't allowed the moment or the stage to suffocate his focus and his identity. 

NFL
Right on time, the Giants resemble the overlooked Super Bowl teams of their past

In the NFL, like all sports, your value is based on wins and losses. As a parent or anyone who loves an athlete, the task becomes guarding them against that mentality. Winning or losing doesn't validate them as men. Our tasks become reminding them of their true value, not allowing the praises or criticisms to penetrate their spirit or psyche. We live in a microwave generation where everyone wants to be great in two minutes, but greatness takes time. Greatness is a process that requires humility, maturity, discipline and dedication. Greatness can come in the form of a bad game that helps you become better, or restraint in the face of harsh criticism and scrutiny. A wise man once said, If you live by the approval of others, you'll die by their rejection." 

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.