University of Louisville Cardinals
Port St. Joe, Florida
Port St. Joe High School
Do not let Calvin Pryor's age fool you, for hidden inside the Cardinals jersey was a player that had old-time scouts likening him to Buddy Ryan's "boys" during the Chicago Bears' march to the Super Bowl. They see the hard-hitting "take no prisoners" approach the junior takes playing inside the box, much like Doug Plank. Others see the deep zone coverage ability and physicality to jar receivers off their routes, similar to the style of play featured by Gary Fencik.
Younger scouts that might have still been in kindergarten when the Bears pair were terrorizing opposing quarterbacks see a player withy the same qualities that has seen New York Giants' Antrell Rolle enjoy a long career – that instant read-and-react ability, combined with the speed and acceleration to cover ground in an instant, a player who is a smooth mover with the flexibility and suppleness to backpedal and come out of his turns with no wasted motion.
The main reason that Louisville had the nation's top-rated defense in college football last season was because of Pryor's "sheriff" like ability patrolling the deep third of the field, while linebacker Preston Brown stuffed the inside run and rush end Marcus Smith wreaked havoc converging on quarterbacks in the backfield.
Pryor enjoyed a great career as the Cardinals' free safety, a position he claimed for the final six games of his freshman season that he would not relinquish until he made the announcement in early January that he was leaving school to play in the National Football League during the 2014 season.
A native of Port St. Joe, Fla., Pryor attended the local high school where he was a standout at both running back and defensive back. Considered a three-star by Rivals.com, he was rated the 31st-best safety prospect in the nation by that recruiting service. He rushed for 1,500 yards and seventeen touchdowns, adding fifty tackles while picking off six passes during his junior season, earning All-State first-team offensive honors and second-team for his defensive success.
Pryor also recorded six interceptions as a senior, closing out his career with 320 yards rushing vs. Interlachen High, followed by 250 vs. Franklin County, as he reversed the honors from the previous season with first-team All-State on defense and second-team offensive accolades coming his way. He closed out his gridiron career by playing in the North-South All-Star game.
Pryor also excelled in basketball, playing point guard as a junior. He averaged 12.0 points and eight assists as the Tiger Sharks reached the Class 2-A Final Four. The previous season, he had averaged double-figure scoring as a sophomore. He also played baseball for the first time as a senior. He hit nearly .400 and was a catalyst both offensively and defensively in center field, as the Tiger Sharks reached the Region 1 2-A finals.
The Louisville staff wasted little time getting their prized recruit on the football field when Pryor reported for Louisville fall camp in 2011. He played in all 13 games, starting seven times, including the final six at free safety. He recorded 43 tackles, sixth-best on the team, making three stops behind the line of scrimmage, causing two fumbles, including one on a sack. He also broke up five passes and intercepted two others on the way to earning Freshman All-American honors.
Pryor and Hakeem Smith would form the best safety tandem in college football over the next two years. They gave the Cardinals their own version of "Thunder and Lightning" in the defensive backfield. While Smith finished third on the team with 73 tackles in 2012, Pryor placed second with 100 hits. The free safety led the Big East Conference and ranked sixth in the nation with five forced fumbles, recovering one to set up a Louisville touchdown drive. Both of his interceptions also led to scoring marches by the offense.
The 2013 season would cement Pryor's status among the country's elite pass defenders. Opponents completed just 10-of-71 passes targeted into his area (14.08 percent), as he picked off three passes, deflected four others and prevented his coverage assignments from getting into their routes on 37 other throws. He also produced 75 tackles, second on the team, delivering 5.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
On Dec. 29, one day after Louisville defeated Miami in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl, Pryor announced he was leaving school and filed for the 2014 NFL Draft. The safety had just recorded six tackles in what would be his final collegiate contest. "I have to make the best decision for me and for my family," Pyror said after the 36-9 win over Miami.
"My experience here in the Ville was truly amazing," Pryor wrote. "After talking with my coaches and family, I've decided to declare for the draft. It's the best decision for me and my family. Thank you all."
Pryor started 32-of-38 games at free safety for Louisville, recording 218 tackles (137 solos) with eleven stops for losses of 62 yards, adding two sacks for minus-37 yards…Gained 61 yards via seven interceptions and deflected 14 other tosses…Recovered five fumbles for 27 yards in returns and caused nine others, a total that ranks sixth among active players in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision ranks.
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft.