Post-season play for college football assures more than exciting contests. Bowl games are often a players’ final chance to convince professional scouts they are truly a professional prospect.
For Mississippi State’s quarterback, Dak Prescott, his 2016 Belk Bowl MVP performance further validated his stellar college career. As the Bulldogs rolled past North Carolina State University (NC State), 51-28, Prescott’s dominating arm and legs did not go unnoticed.
The Louisiana native notched ten school records in Starkville, finishing third in SEC history in total yards and fourth in total touchdowns. He ended his collegiate career with Belk Bowl records for Most Net Yards Gained (427), Most Passing Yards (380), and Most Touchdowns (4).
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Prescott in the 4th round (135th overall pick) after seeing his potential for a promising future. When the Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback for over a decade, Tony Romo, went down in the preseason, Prescott was called on and the rookie has played with poise and maturity ever since.
In four National Football League (NFL) starts, the 6’2” 223-lb hurler has thrown for three touchdowns, rushed for two, and has a 67.9% completion percentage with zero sacks. Even more impressive, Prescott appears to be getting better every time he plays. After four starts, Prescott has 131 pass attempts without an interception, trailing only Tom Brady for the longest streak to start a career in NFL history. He’s in control in the huddle, and at the line of scrimmage, and has led the Cowboys to a 3-1 record. Dallas fans can certainly feel good about the future while they revel in the present.
Likewise, an unexpected opportunity has developed for Prescott’s adversary in the Belk Bowl. NC State quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, was drafted in the 3rd round (91st overall pick) by the New England Patriots to play behind starters Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. Brissett made his first NFL start against the Houston in Foxborough, and handily defeated the Texans 27-0. He completed 11 of 19 passes for 103 yards and carried the ball eight times for 48 yards, scoring his first touchdown on a 27-yard dash. Although Brissett lost his second start, he finished 17 of 27 for 205 yards.
The Belk Bowl has been known to feature players who will go on to compete against each other again at the professional level. In 2011, the Belk Bowl featured Mike Glennon (NC State), currently with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), currently with the Minnesota Vikings. The two quarterbacks squared off again in 2014 at Tampa Bay. Although Glennon came out on top in Charlotte, Bridgewater won the overtime encore 19-13.
Other Belk Bowl alumni have made it to the next level, including Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks Matt Schaub (Virginia, 2003) and Matt Ryan (Boston College, 2006).
However, quarterbacks are not the only position players to transition from the Belk Bowl to the NFL. The Belk Bowl has fostered Hall of Famers Larry Fitzgerald (Pitt, 2003), wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, and Heath Miller (Virginia, 2002, 03), recently retired Pittsburgh Steelers tight end.
The Belk Bowl has also showcased Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen (Clemson, 2011), Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson, 2011), Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron (North Carolina, 2013), and Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (Louisville, 2014).
Defensive stalwarts have correspondingly left their marks in the Belk Bowl, such as overall first pick Mario Williams (NC State, 2005) a defensive end for the Miami Dolphins. Other first round NFL Draft picks include Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones (West Virginia, 2004), Los Angeles Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (North Carolina, 2010), and New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (Louisville, 2014).
The 2016 Belk Bowl will feature a matchup of the No. 2 pooled selection from the Southeastern Conference against the No. 2 pooled selection from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The game will be played on Thursday, December 29th at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kickoff is set for 5:30 PM EST. You won’t want to miss another exciting post-season football game featuring talented collegiate athletes leaving it all out on the field in hopes to become future NFL stars.
By: Helen Sowell
Edited by: Taylor Banner