FRISCO, Texas – Dak Prescott’s initial idea was to protest in the excitement after the touchdown.
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback came out of a sack early in the fourth quarter, zig-zagging into what would become a somersault of a 6-yard rushing touchdown. In their 2018 Thanksgiving game against Washington, the Cowboys now had the lead. Prescott celebrated with his trademark kiss in the sky, a nod to his late mother, and with his offensive lineman.
Then running back Ezekiel Elliott ran toward the end zone, lifting Prescott in his arms before immediately dumping – Dan? – In her Salvation Army red kettle.
“At that point he lifts me up, I’m like, ‘I better not resist or I might hurt something,'” Prescott said. “Zeke is a person and player for whom I am very grateful.”
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The antics marked Elliot’s third touchdown celebration with a red kettle, the Salvation Army’s annual holiday collection campaign that began in 1891. The Cowboys will host their 25th nationally broadcast Red Kettle campaign kickoff on Thursday, complete with kettles in the end zone and a halftime performance. by country music entertainer Luke Combs.
This year’s red kettle involvement remains up in the air after Prescott and Elliott were fined in 2018, which the league deemed irresponsible conduct. But the Cowboys value what the team has become a source of energy and philanthropic spirit. The campaign has served more than 748 million people since 1997 with a total donation of $2.86 billion.
“It’s become that tradition,” Charlotte Jones, Cowboys’ executive vice president and chief brand officer, told USA Today Sports. “It’s as much part of what we are with cowboys as eating turkey is Thanksgiving Day.”
‘A totally authentic moment’
Perhaps Combs’ recognition of the red kettlebell’s antics reflects that reach. Multiplatinum artist and 2021 CMA Entertainer of the Year said he was “accustomed to watching” Elliot jump in the red kettle.
“How many times do you jump in this tomorrow, @ezekielelliott?” Combs posted on Instagram on Thursday.
It’s possible that Elliot hasn’t decided yet.
When he first took the plunge in December 2016, the plan came into effect during the warmup. Elliot looked at the kettle and thought: “That bucket is just sitting near the end zone, so it’s fitting that someone jump in.”
They checked before the warmup to make sure there was nothing dangerous inside.
His moment came when he scored a 2 yard touchdown run against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Still holding the ball, Elliot went in. Then he looked his head up as if checking a clear coast, which has become an iconic meme. A longtime friend texted Elliot’s mother, Don, who was at the game, saying: “This is totally something you must have done.”
Don Elliot saw how quickly his son ran for the kettle and thought he had seen such an opportunity.
“I know my kid: He’s been waiting to do this,” she told USA Today Sports over the phone. “He’s always been a big kid. He’s acted like that ever since he was little. He never grew up.”
Jones combined that infectious spirit with Elliot’s characteristic “feed me” gesture to create an engaging Salvation Army pitch. Judging from the owner’s box, he heaved a sigh of relief when Elliot was injured. After all, she said, kettles were initially used to store pyrotechnics for the team’s halftime performances. Jones also laughed when someone suggested he had Elliot in it as a marketing ploy.
“It was just a 20-year-old who thought it was a good idea to jump inside a kettle,” Jones told USA Today Sports. “I almost think that if it was someone else, it wouldn’t be as clever. But he has to come out there too, his whole personality. To me, it’s such a good feeling, such great generosity.
“It was a completely authentic moment.”
Elliot later donated $21,000 to the Salvation Army and asked fans for a donation of $21 to help feed families in need. The team said the campaign generated an additional $250,000 in donations.
And Elliott brought in a $21 donation back in 2018 when he scored the game’s first touchdown. This time, Elliot had cashed in with an on-field photographer, following his own score to donate the $21 he would eventually donate to Prescott. The Prescott donation, Elliot acknowledged, was not pre-planned.
“It was like the moment,” Elliot said. “Just remember I threw him in there. It was fun. We had a good time.”
looking for a run
On Thursday, the 7-3 Cowboys will try to recover from a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs during a 5-5 visit to the Las Vegas Raiders. The Cowboys struggled to establish the offensive rhythm and physicality they had hoped for. Outside of an explosive 31-yard rush, his remaining 15 carries were 51 yards.
“We just need to reestablish our identity of being physical, apparently setting the tone on the line of scrimmage,” Prescott said. “From there, after we’ve done that, we can re-establish the tempo of our game, move some plays, get some momentum.”
Prescott and Elliot’s ground game could build that momentum on and off the field for the Salvation Army’s campaign. Kettles will be there, with social service providers collecting Christmas gifts, food, shelter, rent and utility aid with an increased need due to the poverty of the pandemic. The organization said the Salvation Army estimates that it will need $175 million to keep Americans in their homes this holiday season. Prescott said that Elliot can be counted on to have an “always great spirit”.
Jones said she would encourage a celebration involving a red kettle, even though the league has taunted it with more enthusiasm this season. Her father, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, has said that he would love to sue the league for such punishment and bring even more awareness to the cause of the Salvation Army.
“I encourage his ingenuity,” Jones said. “It is certainly something that has used our visibility to inspire others to help and give back, but just as important to us, it inspires an ethos in our organization about how much It is important and we have a responsibility to be part of this team.
“Every year, we build on it and let people understand how important it is. They’ve really embraced it.”
Follow Jori Epstein on Twitter @Jori Epstein,