Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has been "accused of using a machine to sign his autograph for memorabilia company selling to collectors instead of signing himself," according to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com.
"They had a very machine-like feel," Steve Grad, the principal authenticator of Beckett Grading Services, said of five autographed Prescott cards from the Panini 2016 Prizm set. "You could see the starts and stops."
"I immediately knew they were autopen," he added. "I've never heard of a modern athlete doing this."
Prescott, 23, had a superb rookie season, throwing for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions while also rushing for 282 yards and another six scores. He led the Cowboys to an NFC-best 13-3 record and a first-round bye, though the Cowboys lost to the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round.
That made Prescott one of the biggest stories in 2016 and left him in a position to cash in off the field with various promotions and marketing deals. According to Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News, Prescott has entered into a number of deals this offseason:
"His Twitter feed tells part of the tale, with mentions of Nicholas Air, which offers private air travel. Then there's Welch's Fruit Snacks, which supplied some kids with free spots to his camps. The Adidas logo is easy to spot scrolling through. Then there's Prescott grinning in his No. 4 jersey and holding a Pepsi in one hand and a bag of Tostitos in the other. A new deal with Campbell's Chunky Soup was announced last week."
Any partnership with Panini is now being called into question, however.
It isn't the first time Panini has had autograph issues. According to Rovell, the company said in May they had discovered that cards supposedly signed by Atlanta Falcons linebacker Takkarist McKinley weren't in fact autographed by the 2017 first-round pick.
Rovell added, "It's possible that Prescott never saw the cards, as blank labels to be signed and even cards themselves are often sent to marketing agents first. Attempts to reach Prescott, his agent Jeff Guerreiro and his marketing agent Peter Miller were unsuccessful."