"I really respect Mr. Fulton," Johnny Prater said by phone from Hillside, Ill., just 20 minutes from Homewood. "He's not going to be the determining factor in our decision - I'm doing my own research - but I respect his opinion. It means a lot because he's had two kids (Zach and older brother Xavier) go through this process, and he knows what it's like."
Johnny Prater met Zach Fulton at a football camp and eventually got acquainted with Glen Fulton. With each looking to help his son choose the right college, the two fathers quickly established a rapport.
"We got in touch," Prater said, "and started talking from there."
The Fultons and Praters originally planned to visit the UT campus simultaneously on June 27. A death in the family caused the Fultons to postpone their visit until June 29, however, and the Praters wound up postponing their visit, as well.
"I ran into some car problems," Johnny Prater said. "One of the warning lights came on, and I didn't want to take the chance of going down there and maybe having something bad happen. We contacted the coaches and told them we would have to reschedule. We ARE going to get down there."
Precisely when Kyle Prater's Knoxville visit will occur remains undetermined, however.
"We want to schedule a date either before his season starts or on a weekend during the season," Johnny Prater said. "That way he could see the stadium on game day."
Although the elder Prater has never toured The Hill, he has a link to the Vol football program.
"I haven't visited the campus but I know a lot about it," he said. "I went to the same high school as Eric Berry's father, James ... North Natchez High in Mississippi."
Kyle Prater, a 6-5, 205-pounder, was MVP of the Army All-America Combine at San Antonio in January and holds scholarship offers by the dozen. He recently narrowed his college options to 10 - Illinois, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Michigan, UT, Notre Dame, Alabama, Auburn, Missouri and Miami. He seems to have a high regard for the Vol program.
"Oh, he really likes it," Johnny Prater said. "One of the reasons we put them in his top 10 is the history of the program. We're impressed by the way Peyton Manning comes back to support the school and the way the fans support the program. There was a great turnout for the spring game, and fan support means a lot."
Obviously, being the No. 1 player in America at your position is a big deal. Kyle Prater seems to be handling the notoriety quite well, however.
"We just try to keep everything as normal as possible around the house," Johnny Prater said. "We try to keep him humble. We tell him 'Hey, this is a one-time experience. You'll only experience this once in your lifetime, but you need to stay humble.'"