Making His Own Way

When it comes to making his college choice, Georgian T.J. Pridemore isn't influenced one way or another by his father's career at West Virginia. However, the Mountaineers stand as good a chance as any of snaring the southern linebacking star.

"I don't really worry about following him or trying to live up to what he did or anything like that," the star Buford High School said. "I really don't even think about it."

That doesn't mean, however, that Tom's football experience hasn't played a big part in T.J.'s interest in the game. The elder Pridemore was a star safety at West Virginia from 1975-77, winning the Ira C. Rodgers Award during his senior year. He was team captain that year, and was named to the all-decade team for his performance. He capped his career with his induction to the WVU Hall of Fame in 1998.

"I remember coming up to the induction that year," T.J. said with quiet pride. "It was very exciting for a kid to see that for his dad. I remember seeing all the family members there, and it was great to see all the pride they had. It was also impressive to see the program they had built."

"The fact that my dad played the game a lot did help early. So did the place where I've grown up – football is a very big deal here. My dad was one of my coaches growing up, and so was Scott Case, who also played with the Atlanta Falcons. Having those types of people around was a big influence."

Add in neighbor Jeff Morrow, another former WVU and NFL star, and former Falcons such as Buddy Curry and Bobby Butler, and it's apparent that Pridemore lives in an area filled with NFL talent. Past the obvious influence on his football career, however, that's not something that T.J. and his friends talk about much.

"It is interesting that so many of the kids in Buford had dads who played in college or the NFL. I'm friends with a lot of guys whose fathers played in the NFL. We don't talk about it much, though. It's just not something that we think about a lot."

It's likely that the college futures of Pridemore and his friends are of more immediate import. Buford has send a number of players on to Division I schools, including Jeff's son Thor, who will be battling for playing time at nose guard at West Virginia this season.

"I talk to him some," said T.J. of his former Buford teammate. "Thor is the kind of guy that wherever he goes, whatever position he plays, he is going to play. He is just a tough guy."

Merrow's good experience at West Virginia to date certainly couldn't hurt WVU's chances of landing Pridemore, but it, like his father's status as an alumnus, won't be the deciding factor.

"I want to go somewhere that you can play for the coach that recruited you," he said. "I want to like the coaches and the atmosphere, somewhere that I can enjoy the whole experience."

That certainly could be West Virginia, which Pridemore says is still firmly on his list of interest along with a number of other schools.

I don't want to narrow it down yet. I like the schools that have offered me, and I want to visit some more of them. I haven't visited West Virginia yet, but I do want to do that. I don't have a timeframe for a decision yet either.

"I haven't really thought about the number of official visits I am going to take, either. If I am down to two or three schools, I might just take that many. It all depends on where I am in the process."

In the meantime, the outstanding linebacker, who has visited Georgia and Georgia Tech, will continue to focus on his play on defense. Although he spotted some duty at tailback, fullback and tight end, his first love is dishing out punishment, not carrying the ball.

"Linebacker is a position I have always played," he said. "I played middle linebacker first, then moved outside before my sophomore year. I just enjoy defense. I don't have a preference for playing inside or outside – wherever I fit on the defense is fine. I just love contact – that's why I love playing football."

Dishing out hits is the common thread that runs between father and son. Dad Tom, although not as big as T.J., was an excellent tackler who obviously passed on many of his defensive skills to his son. The similarities in style, therefore, beg the question: Have Tom and T.J ever squared off on the field?

"No, I've never done that," T.J. said with a laugh. "It would be fun, though. He's more experienced, so that would give him an edge. I've watched some of his films, and that was a lot of fun. And growing up with him being my coach for a while was great. I learned a lot from him."

T.J. Pridemore Profile

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