Hulbert said something along the lines of "You boys want to play at Proviso West?"
Yeah, one boy affirmed.
What followed made Coach Hulbert smile.
"We want to be the next Kyle Prater."
High school athletes don't usually become household names. Little kids barely remember who the quarterbacks in this year's Super Bowl were.
So to name Kyle Prater, a redshirt freshman receiver on the USC Trojans, who hasn't logged a minute on the college level, seems rather odd.
Consider that Hillside--the city that envelops Proviso West High School-- has a crime index of 21, meaning 79 percent of U.S. cities are safer than Prater's hometown, according to neighborhoodscout.
"A lot of kids I graduated with are either in jail or, in mayhem," the Scout five-star recruit said. "There's robberies, lockups, stuff like that."
Coming from a violent neighborhood, Prater put his energy into sports. His dad, a standard truck driver who wakes up at 4 a.m. told Prater to get his head into books and play football.
"[Prater] helped put Provisor West football back on the map. When I played we were pumping D-1 kids in and out. But a lot of losing took place and he helped restore pride for our football. We use him as that example that if you work hard enough in the classroom and on the field you can accomplish anything," Hulbert said.
At age seven, Prater started to play football. He played on the line both ways because he was "a little chunky." By the seventh grade, Prater slimmed down and started running routes.
Now, Prater (6-6, 215) has the build of an NBA player and a face resembling singer Trey Songz. At the high school level, he backed up his celebrity-looks with talent. His junior year, Prater made the Chicago Sun Times All-Area first team catching 60 passes for 948 yards. A year later, while head coach Lane Kiffin was hot on his tail at Tennessee, Prater had 64 receptions and 13 touchdowns. He list of honors that year is exhaustive.
So it makes a little more sense why kids look to Prater as their role model. But for young players like Justin West, currently a senior receiver at Proviso, it isn't just Prater's football ability that he admires.
"He taught me how to be humble," West said. "He always thanks everybody and [is] happy he's in the position he's in. He comes up to the school and will talk to the kids and tell them ‘go on, you just have to work hard.'"
"Where I'm from there's a lot of athletes that come out [at a high level] but a lot of them don't come back and try to talk to the kids," Prater said. "I might as well start now. I feel like I can make an impact early."
The split end hasn't made an impact early at USC. Since his arrival in Los Angeles, small injuries have nagged Prater. Last spring, as an early enrollee, he pulled his hamstring. Last summer, he suffered a tear in his groin. This spring, he had surgery after stress-fracturing his foot.
"It's just stuff I have to deal with I never had an injury problem coming into college," he said. "I guess it's just something my body has to adjust to."
Admitting he has an interest in acting, and is taking dance classes to prepare for a future on the show "Dancing with the Stars," Prater will need to get healthy before he can entertain anyone off the field.
Except for the kids back in Hillside. To them, Prater will remain an idol, the face of Proviso West. Well, that is, until the next big star makes his mark.
"We had a receiver who broke a couple of Kyle's records and we had Kyle call him to make sure he kept his mentality right off the field," said the coach.
"I feel like the more I do here, the impact I make here, I'm going to help somebody at home," Prater said.
Apparently he already has. As for helping out the Trojans?
"My goal is to be the best wide receiver that ever came to USC," Prater declared.
That he hasn't. Yet. Luckily for USC, he has four years to try.