Pryts the complete package

Notre Dame offered four-star safety Andrew Pryts, who shines on and off the field. The Irish see an athletic linebacker in the Penn State legacy.

Ask Hickory head coach Bill Brest about four-star safety Andrew Pryts and he’ll tell you all about the 6-foot-2, 203-pounder who has landed scholarship offers from more than two dozen programs, including Notre Dame.

But first he’ll tell you about Pryts the student, the son and the teammate.

“Let’s not even start with football,” Brest said. “Let’s start with he’s a great character kid and how he represents himself in the school and the study hall and classroom and the hallways and social life and how he represents himself with his family and on the field and off the football field. He’s just a wonderful young man that way.”

Pryts, who carries a 4.0 grade point average, is as successful off the field as he is on it and that’s saying something.

The son of former Penn State linebacker Ed Pryts has started at Hickory High in Hermitage, Pa., since his freshman season and recorded a team-high 62 solo tackles with three interceptions in 2014. He also racked up 1,084 all-purpose yards with 13 touchdowns and averaged 46 yards per kickoff return and 14.4 yards on punt returns.

That’s where his drive comes into play, which made him a first-team all-state pick last season.

“It’s the work ethic and how he lifts with the football team and how he does extra work on his own,” Brest said. “He sits up front in team meetings. He’s a leader on the field and he stays after practice to get extra work in on maybe a weakness he feels he may have. He’s also a return guy and gets extra reps with the punters and the kickers and route timing with the quarterbacks. You put character and academics and work ethic together and that summarizes Andrew and those three words are a big epitome of our football program.”

College coaches have flocked to Hickory High in record numbers to learn more about the Pryts. While they like the speed, size and athleticism, they’re less sure on his best position at the next level.

“Most schools are recruiting him as a safety and some are recruiting him as a SAM linebacker,” Brest said. “A lot of teams that like him at safety are the ones that play a lot of Cover 2 or Cover 4, with two high safeties. They know he can fill the alley. They like him pretty much at the strong safety. If they go one high they can roll him down into the flat area as a strong safety.”

Notre Dame likes Pryts’ fit at SAM linebacker.

“I had a nice long conversation with coach (Mike) Elston,” Brest said. “Notre Dame is planning on using him as a SAM linebacker. They feel he’s a great SAM in their system, especially with them playing a lot of spread teams and zone read teams. They feel that is where he could help their program out the best.”

At Hickory, Pryts changes positions based on the opposing offense’s alignment.

“We are mainly a two-high, where we expect our safeties to take three read steps and if they read run they’re filling the alley right now,” Brest said. “We use him as a strong safety and based upon certain formations if we see two tights we’ll roll him down to the box and he becomes a Will linebacker for us. If we see some perimeter teams we’ll screw him strong as an outside linebacker. He’s just such a smart kid that he can handle those positions for us.”

Prior to Pryts, Hickory’s most highly recruited prospect was receiver Andre Coleman, who signed with Kansas State in 1994 and later played in the Super Bowl with the San Diego Chargers. He also spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The recruiting attention Coleman drew doesn’t compare to Pryts.

“This keeps resonating with me as all the coaches come in, they love his football smarts and they just love the way he plays football,” Brest said. “He’s such a very physical football player, how he finishes tackles and finishes through pass breakups. The amount of offers that he’s had are quite a bit more than Andre and Andre was just a special young man.”

That extra attention won’t make Pryts’ decision an easy one.

Brest has offered his advice and believes Pryts has a strong support system to guide him through the decision-making process.

“He and I speak a few times a week about it. There’s no pressure,” Brest said. “I know he’s a young man of faith too and I keep telling him to pray about it. He has a great support system with his beautiful family, his parents and his brothers, and they communicate. I think it’s ultimately going to be his decision but we talk constantly about fit and feel. You’ve got to have a fit for the campus and a fit for the academics and a fit for the coaching staff. You have a fit for the players. I really think it’s what he eventually may feel is the best fit and feel for him.”

Penn State naturally is among the early favorites to land Pryts’ signature but the Nittany Lions aren’t a lock.

“Everything I heard from Andrew is he’s just an open door. He’s just open-minded about it all,” Brest said. “He does love Penn State. He’s been to Penn State many times for all the games as a little kid clear up to now. Again, he’s open-minded and we’re going to support whatever decision he makes.”


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