Gaining ground on and off field

Bowling Brook's Tim Pryor has used football to help turn his life around.

Cover Story

November 16, 2005|By LUKE BROADWATER | LUKE BROADWATER,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

At the beginning of fall, Tim Pryor, a senior at Bowling Brook Preparatory School, had never played high school football.

Nevertheless, the 18-year-old set what seemed like a far-fetched goal for a beginning football player: to rush for more than 1,000 yards.

Three months after setting his goal, Pryor walked off the field during the final game of his team's season - a Nov. 4 loss to Long Reach in which he accumulated 74 yards.

As the stands emptied on the Columbia field, Pryor realized that he had achieved his goal. With 1,015 yards, he had become the first 1,000-yard rusher in Bowling Brook's 16-year history.

Pryor hadn't played football in high school before because, like all of Bowling Brook's students, he'd been in and out of school and in trouble with the law. The Keymar private school is reserved for boys between the ages of 15 and 18 who have been ordered by judges to attend it.

Pryor said the school and his experience with football have helped him turn his life around.

"You have to change your attitude," said Pryor. "That's where it all starts."

Achieving a 3.5 grade-point-average and earning his GED, Pryor took a special interest in U.S. history during his time at Bowling Brook. In two weeks, he will graduate from the school and move back into society, where he will soon begin work as a masonry apprentice. From there, he hopes to play football in college.

Bowling Brook's teachers focus on teaching the boys life skills and helping them hold onto their new attitudes after they return to the community.

"We're a peer-influenced school," Bowling Brook football coach Dave Neumayer said. "They confront each other about their behavior."

His coaches said Pryor has undergone a complete transformation since he entered Bowling Brook last year.

"When Tim first came into the program, he had no focus," said Josh Yosuico, the team's running backs coach and defensive coordinator. "He had a selfish attitude. He just wanted to take the easy way out. As he's been at Bowling Brook, he's developed respect for other people and other people's opinions. He wants to build a relationship with the staff. He's opened himself up toward me and the other coaches."

Yosuico said he started seeing the change in Pryor's attitude before football season, and it increased as the season went along. Pryor is now a humble, natural leader.

"He wanted to be a part of something," Yosuico said. "He wanted to make other people happy. He wanted to achieve something for himself and for his school."

Still, Yosuico didn't expect a 1,000-yard season from Pryor.

"To be honest, I was kind of skeptical of what Tim's role would be on the field at the start of the season," Yosuico said. "He looked like just a skinny, little kid. But once he got the pads on, it was a totally different story. He immediately brought toughness and some integrity to the team."

As Pryor, 5 feet 7 and 165 pounds, began accumulating yardage from the backfield, his coaches became more convinced of his ability.

"He's one of the toughest kids I've ever coached," Yosuico said. "The harder he gets hit, the quicker he pops up. He never lays on the ground. He never gets helped to the sidelines. The other players all look up to him."

Said Neumayer: "He's fast. He's explosive. He can run to the inside. He can run to the outside. He breaks tackles. He's the complete package."

Pryor's teammates were instantly impressed with his leadership skills and his dedication to setting goals and achieving them.

"You never know what kind of game Tim will have," said Bowling Brook quarterback Tray Wilson, a free-wheeling runner who rushed for 390 yards this season and, like Pryor, never played football before this year. "He might get 200 yards. He's the hardest worker on the team. Everything he does, he does to the max."

Pryor's success helped drive the Thoroughbreds (6-4) to one of their best seasons, Neumayer said, noting that other coaches continually complimented his players on how well-behaved, respectful and disciplined they are.

"Because of the nature of the school, every year I start over with a new group of guys," Neumayer said. "I always tell them, at the start of the year, `You're not a team yet, you're a group of players.'

"Tim was our playmaker and his play really helped us come together as a team. What Tim did this year will be something we all remember for a long time to come."

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