Prater settling in with Northwestern

Kyle Prater has settled in with Northwestern, his new team and school. The wide receiver is closer to family and friends from his home of Hillside, Ill. However, Prater is still progressing each day as he works to gain full health and knowledge of the playbook. The arrow appears to be pointing up.

Late in the fourth quarter of Northwestern's game with Vanderbilt, with a Wildcat victory in hand, fans at Ryan Field celebrated as the rain poured down from the sky.

Mixed in with the crowd of purple was a group of uniform red, nestled in section 125. They let out a loud cheer: "K-P! K-P! K-P!"

It was the Proviso West football team saluting its hero from several years prior, Kyle Prater.

With Prater's transfer from USC to Northwestern, Coach Famous Hulbert wanted his players to see the standout wide receiver as an example; a success story on the field and in the classroom.

Now that Prater is playing close to his home of Hillside, Ill., the Proviso West Panthers hope to cheer on their hero each Saturday in Evanston.

"To have the whole community come out to support him I think shows why it's so special for Chicagoans to stay home and play for Chicago's Big Ten Team," said Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Prater is a proud alumnus of Proviso West. His name is still bandied about in the hallways of his old high school, and he often returns to speak with the football team. Prater's word speak strongly, but his example stands out.

"I just try to motivate them," Prater said. "Seeing them at the game, having them see me on the field, I think that's big for them to see that hard work pays off."

Great expectations have followed Prater since being tabbed as one of the nation's top high school prospects, and such was the case as he came to Evanston; decorated as a superstar before even playing one rep.

Prater has hauled in five catches in three games' action for Northwestern, though his progress report lists an incomplete grade. It has been an adjustment for Prater with Northwestern, but the arrow is pointing up.

"He's just getting in better and better shape," Fitzgerald said. "It's unfair for him to have such lofty expectations because he was injured, getting himself back in shape, and picking up the offense. He's doing a terrific, terrific job."

For Prater, progress is made each time he dons purple, where he improves physically and continues to grasp the playbook. He is propelled by a chip on his shoulder which isn't going away any time soon. It's what defines him.

"I just want to go out there, make plays, and help this team win ballgames; at the same time, get better every day, every week, every Saturday," he said.

Had it not been for an NCAA waiver, Prater would not be allowed the chance to play in his first season with the Wildcats; that following two unproductive, injury-plagued seasons as Southern California.

Prater has settled in with Northwestern, more humble than ever before.

"I'm just thankful to get back out here," Prater said. "I'm blessed to have this opportunity to play at this great university."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
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