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Tribute to teamwork: Inside The Mag’s cover story on Cowboys’ Prescott

ESPN The Magazine's cover story on Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott required lots of teamwork.
ESPN The Magazine’s cover story on Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott required lots of adjustments.
The Prescott piece was a great example of nimble, patient teamwork among several departments.
– Mike Drago, senior editor, ESPN The Magazine

ESPN The Magazine senior editor Mike Drago shares the behind-the-scenes maneuvering and power of teamwork that led to the Dak Prescott cover story that almost wasn’t.

How did the Dak Prescott cover story come to life?
The Prescott piece was a great example of nimble, patient teamwork among several departments. We’d been watching Dak’s success for a few weeks and talking about the right timing for a Mag piece. About that time, ESPN.com deputy editor Chris Sprow reminded us of a Prescott piece that senior writer Ian O’Connor had written for the site a week earlier [published Oct. 14, 2016].

We were about a week out from closing our Playing Through Pain Issue on newsstands Friday [Nov. 4]. We decided to seize the moment and jumped on a call to ask Ian if he’d have time to update the piece for the Mag. He took on the additional work even though he was headed from New York to cover back-to-back games: Cardinals-Seahawks in Arizona on Sunday [Oct. 23] and Broncos-Texans in Denver on Monday night [Oct. 24].

Sprow also shared [ESPN senior writer] Adam Schefter’s behind-the-scenes account of how the Cowboys basically stumbled onto their star rookie after failing to land several other QBs through draft maneuvers and trades. This was shaping into an outstanding package.

After enduring what he described as a brutal trip home from Denver, Ian was a pro throughout. The result was a piece that shed new light on Dak’s background and his penchant for exceeding expectations at every level.
– Drago on Ian O’Connor’s work on the Prescott profile

Were there other challenges that the team encountered?
While Ian worked his tail off, photo editor Kaitlin Marron, beat the bushes for a Dak Prescott image that would make our cover shine. We often get access with cover subjects for a photo shoot, but, in this case, we were unable to and had to make do with what was available. See for yourself the amazing shot Kait came up with [see cover above].

By Tuesday (The Magazine closes Thursday), we had a new version of the Prescott piece, including great new material from Cowboys legend Roger Staubach and Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells. That gave us two days to work through edits, a tight turnaround in the Mag world.

After enduring what he described as a brutal trip home from Denver, Ian was a pro throughout. The result was a piece that shed new light on Dak’s background and his penchant for exceeding expectations at every level. Ian’s reporting also went beyond feature profile territory to offer prescient perspective on the budding quarterback controversy in Dallas. After all, he reminds us, the kid’s just six games into his career.

Are there other key people who played a role in making this happen?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention our design staff, which came up with a striking cover and design elements in record time, and our research and copy desks, which we also put under the gun. As I say, great teamwork all around.

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