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Cowboys QB Dak Prescott tackles high expectations ahead of contract talks

With contract extension talk swirling around several Dallas Cowboy players, Dak Prescott remains a steady leader who aims to reach his lofty goals

DALLAS — No one has higher expectations for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott than the two-time Pro Bowler himself.

Heading into his fourth season, the final year of his rookie contract, the former 2016 fourth-round pick knows the secret to achieving those lofty goals.

"I think my expectations for myself are way higher than what anyone has for me," Prescott told reporters at his ProCamp in Starkville, Miss., on July 20. "But, for me, I know to reach those expectations I have to come in each and every day with the right attitude, working hard, making others around me better."

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One trait of Prescott's that readily came to mind for coach Jason Garrett was his leadership ability, an aspect that was on full display in the former Mississippi State Bulldogs' rookie season.

"If you reflect back to his rookie year in 2016, Tony Romo’s our quarterback, an outstanding player for us, and Dak was brought in here to compete as a backup player and possibly be someone who could be the future of our franchise," Garrett said at the team's opening training camp presser Friday in Oxnard, Calif. "The way he stepped in that year under those circumstances and led our football team to me was remarkable. I don’t think that’s happened very much in the history of the NFL, the kind of performance he had and the impact he had on the team."

Prescott tied Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the most wins by a rookie quarterback with 13 as he lead Dallas to a 13-3 record, an mark no one would have believed the Cowboys could have achieved when Romo went down with his fourth career back injury on Aug. 25, 2016 in Seattle. Dallas rallied and achieved the top spot in the conference, locked up home-field advantage. Even though the Cowboys fell to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, it was a preview of the glory years that could be on the horizon with Prescott at the helm.

"He’s played big in every big moment," Garrett said. "He’s played big in big games. He’s always played his best at the critical moments. That’s just what he’s all about. I think if you reflect back on his career at Mississippi State and before that, that’s what he’s been about all his life. We’re lucky to have him."

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The Cowboys have Prescott, who has a career 32-16 record with a 96.0 passer rating, under contract through 2019. Of course, Dallas seeks to retain Prescott well into the 2020's, but he is part of an expiring contract class that includes linebacker Jaylon Smith, receiver Amari Cooper, and cornerback Byron Jones. While Smith may be the lone player in the group to not have a Pro Bowl, he is nonetheless a significant part of the Cowboys' front seven.

Throw in two-time NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott's deal expiring after the 2020 season, and it would seem the Cowboys have tough decisions to make. However, keeping Prescott isn't one of them; it is keeping high quality talent around him while on his second contract.

"You'd love to get a deal done that he's happy with, that the team can work with to surround him with great players on offense, and to have a great defense and special teams," Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said. "If we can get all of that done, then we have done well. Who's to say exactly what that number is today or the length or what plays into that? But that would be the goal."

Regardless of when a deal gets worked -- some say it is imminent while recent history suggests the bye week -- Prescott knows he has to work on himself to make his team great.

"I'm trying to get better in every aspect of my life, and I know it will pay off," Prescott said.

Do you think the Cowboys will be able to sign their stars and keep their QB happy in the salary cap era? Share with Mark on Twitter who you think Dallas should re-sign @therealmarklane.