The 2020 season has been a nightmare for the Dallas Cowboys on the injury front. Recently, it reached the most important position on the team, quarterback. Dak Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle during the Cowboys Week 5 victory vs the New York Giants and is out for the season. Last week vs the Washington Football Team, backup Andy Dalton left the game with a concussion after a brutal hit from linebacker Jon Bostic. This sets up seventh-round pick Ben DiNucci to likely make his first NFL start this Sunday vs the Philadelphia Eagles with Dalton still in concussion protocol. While preparing to take over the reins for the time being he got a little advice from Prescott at The Star on Wednesday.
“Kind of just walked up to him and said, ‘Hey this isn’t what you said my rookie year was going to be like,'” DiNucci said. “He laughed and gave me a hug and just said, ‘We’ve talked about this. Go out there and do you. Take completions. Trust the guys around you. You’ll be great. Don’t overthink it. Football’s football.’ It’s a game I’ve been playing since seventh grade. Not going to try to make it any more than it is. Going to have fun with it, bring a lot of energy, bring a lot of confidence, and let my play speak for itself.”
DiNucci got his feet wet last week after Dalton’s departure. He completed two of his three passes for 39 yards but unfortunately was sacked three times as well. With him likely getting the starting nod on Sunday, DiNucci realizes it’s his time to shine on the big stage.
“For me, this is an opportunity of a lifetime,” DiNucci said. “I think, as a rookie seventh-rounder coming in, you see Dak and you see Andy at the top of the depth chart, it’s, ‘Hey, there’s no chance that I’m going to be on the field this year.’ But, hey, this is 2020. What else do you expect? Here we are. Week 8 of my rookie year I’ve got a chance to go out there on Sunday Night Football and do what I love to do. I couldn’t be happier or more excited.”
The young gunslinger entered the college ranks coming off of a very productive high school career. He was a USA Today High School All-American in 2014 and was named the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year in 2015. He enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania but decommitted to accept a scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh. After a two-year stint, he transferred to James Madison University.
DiNucci received third-team All-CAA honors after passing for 2,275 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushing for 433 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior in 2018. As a senior, he threw for 3,441 yards and 29 touchdowns while completing nearly 71% of his passes and also added 569 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He would receive first-team All-CAA, CAA Offensive Player of the Year, and AFCA first-team All-American honors.
He finished his career at James Madison ranked third in completions (479), fourth in passing touchdowns (45), fourth in passing yards (5,716), and seventh in total offense (6,718).
A resume like that proves DiNucci has an abundance of talent, and it’s beginning to be recognized by his teammates. Star running back Ezekiel Elliott had this to say earlier in the week about the seventh-rounder.
“He definitely has a little s**t to him, confidence,” Elliott said. “He takes command of the huddle and that’s great, especially coming from a young guy since you honestly don’t know he hadn’t played any snaps in this league up until last week. So you don’t know what you’re going to get but it definitely is a big, big, big help that he’s in that thing confident.”
That confidence could face its ultimate test against a fierce Eagles pass rush this week. If that’s the case, all eyes will be on DiNucci under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football as the Cowboys look to take back the top spot in the NFC East.
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