Calvin Pryor (25) was drafted ahead of Teddy Bridgewater in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Calvin Pryor played quarterback at Port St. Joe High School in the Florida panhandle. Marcus Smith played quarterback at Hardaway High School in Columbus, Ga.
Pryor threw for more than 1,000 yards on a team that Pryor said ran the Wing-T offense. Mark Stoops tried to convince Pryor to sign with Florida State. Smith threw the ball harder and deeper, talking to the University of Florida about playing the position in Gainesville. The coaches talked to him about being the next Tim Tebow because of his size and power.
Pryor also played baseball, hitting better than .400 as a flashy center fielder. He went toe-to-toe with Austin Rivers on the AAU basketball circuit in Orlando. Pryor can do it all. Smith was another multi-sport star who could have earned a Division I basketball scholarship. He was quite a rebounder.
But Charlie Strong had a plan for Calvin Pryor: Come to the University of Louisville. Concentrate on playing safety. Become a foundational piece in a superb defense.
Strong also had a plan for Smith: Come to the University of Louisville. You'll get a chance to play quarterback. But I'll also give you an opportunity to play defensive end.
Enjoy where your football career will take you.
Thursday night it took Pryor to New York, New York. The Jets selected Pryor with the 18th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.
It also took Smith to Philadelphia. The Eagles surprised the experts by taking Smith with pick 26.
For the first time in school history, Louisville had three players taken in the first round. Strong and his coaching staff turned a pair of three-star recruits who were former quarterbacks into first-round picks as defensive players in the NFL Draft.
Pryor and Smith were both selected ahead of their former U of L teammate, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He was taken with the 32nd and final pick by Minnesota after the Vikings traded second- and fourth-round picks for Seattle's selection. Pryor was also the first safety taken, ahead of Alabama all-American Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who went 21st to Green Bay.
The only two Louisville players taken higher than Pryor since 1964 are Amobi Okoye (10th in 2007) and Joe Johnson (13th in 1994).
“If you remember Bob Sanders in his prime at Indianapolis, this guy (Pryor) is a bigger Bob Sanders,” said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. “He is a bullet … Maybe the most fearless defensive back I saw on tape this year. He flies around the field. He makes plays.”
Pryor ranked second in tackles for Louisville last season with 75, including 5-1/2 for a loss. He intercepted three passes and deflected seven more. He hits like a linebacker but runs like a cornerback.
I once asked Pryor if he could have played college baseball.
“I could have played for Florida State and I could have been drafted by the Diamondbacks coming out of high school,” he said.
How good were you?
“I’m more of a put-the-ball in play type guy,” he said. “A line drive hitter. I’m not going to hit home runs, but I’ll hit the ball and get on base. I’ll have a high on-base percentage.
“I’m pretty fast. I’m fast for baseball. I never really got thrown out in high school.”
Could you have been a Division I college basketball player?
“I think I could have if I had just put my mindset and work ethic into it,” Pryor said.
Pryor said he really began to embrace football in junior high school and played quarterback as well as in the defensive secondary. That is when football replaced baseball as his number one love.
“I couldn’t say I was always good,” he said. “But growing up I just saw a lot of people fail during a lifetime of playing football. I didn’t want that to happen to me.”
It didn’t happen to Calvin Pryor. Confirmation of that came Thursday night in New York City. He'll have his chance to be a star with the Jets -- the same chance Marcus Smith will have in Philadelphia.