"It was one of the first times I ever started to root for Notre Dame," Pratl said. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound tight end/defensive end, is one of the best players in the state, in the 2009 recruiting class. "I kind of liked it. It's growing on me."
Pratl is quickly growing on major college programs.
The Irish, Colorado, Northwestern, Kansas, Purdue, Vanderbilt and Michigan are just a few of the schools showing Pratl early interest with letters and game invites. Iowa had a coach at Pratl's school on Tuesday to watch his basketball game.
Never interested in Notre Dame as a fan, Pratl is certainly intrigued as a possible student and player. So as soon as his football season ended, Pratl was able to make his only unofficial visit thus far to South Bend. He wasn't making any trips during his season.
"I had a really good time," Pratl said. He was on Notre Dame's campus two summers ago for a basketball tournament, but didn't get a chance to see what it had to offer. "Everything, just walking through the tunnel. I liked a lot of stuff Notre Dame had. I liked how they treated me down there. They made sure everything was going well for me and my guests. I liked their weight room, it was really big. We didn't get a chance to look at the indoor practice facility, but someone else said that it was really nice."
Pratl helped lead Richards to an 11-1 record this season, before bowing out in the state quarterfinals. He had 33 receptions for 690 yards and nine touchdowns. He also pulled down five two-point conversions, blocked two punts and is the team's long snapper. He has attended a Ray Guy camp just for kickers and punters.
Pratl talks with Irish assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello once every few weeks, and said that Notre Dame has expressed interest in him as a tight end and a long snapper.
"I'm an athletic tight end," Pratl said. He runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.6 range according to head coach Gary Korhonen. "I'm kind of like a receiver in a tight end's body. That's what my coach told me. I just think I'm smart on the field. Blocking is one of my favorite things to do too."
"He's a tight end, a wide out, he could play defensive end if he gains weight, he a long snapper, he‘s got it all." Korhonen said. The 35-year head coach became the all-time wins leader in Illinois state high school football history this fall. Korhonen has sent 274 kids to college, including 87 to Division-I schools. Pratl is the next in line.
"It's just his size," Korhonen continued. "I think he blocks real well, and is a great target. And he'll get you yards once he catches the ball. His strides are enormous. He has very deceptive speed."
Korhonen has coached five Pratls in his day, including Shaun's father.
"He has a mean streak, but his father played with more of a linebacker mentality."
Pratl could have a future on the hardwood as well. Through his team's first four games this season, he was averaging about 16 points per game. During the summer he plays on the Nike sponsored AAU team Mean Streets, coached by former Michigan wide receiver Tai Streets.
"I'm getting a little bit of interest," Pratl said. He has a 3.2 GPA. "Penn State, Wisconsin Green Bay, Dayton, Illinois, Indiana State.
"I'm still undecided whether it will be football or basketball. I'm leaning towards football, but I'm not sure yet."
Pratl's also not sure about many schools right now. He is just taking the time to learn about all the schools that are sending him stuff.
One thing Pratl has quickly learned is that there is a Notre Dame fan somewhere inside him.