Southern Illinois University Salukis
St. Louis, Missouri
Kirkwood High School
OVERVIEWMcCole Pruitt has certainly captured the attention from every tight end-needy team in the National Football League. The senior makes no secret about his ambition to play in the NFL, and says watching former teammate Ray Agnew succeed with the Cleveland Browns is inspirational.
The school’s all-time record holder for receptions (221) caught a few scouts by surprise during 2014 August camp, as his conversations with those talent evaluators had them going back to their respective team complexes raving about him being a consummate team player worried more about the Salukis’ success than his own.
During those discussions, the All-American tight end seemed more excited to talk about the Salukis' running game. He was fired up about the potential of SIU's ground attack, which featured a veteran offensive line and two powerful tailbacks in Malcolm Agnew and Mika'il McCall. New offensive coordinator Bill O'Boyle was in the process of instilling a smash-mouth mentality.
The tight end would go on to earn unanimous All-American honors in 2014, setting the school annual record with 81 receptions that also rank sixth on the Missouri Valley Foot-ball Conference season-record chart. Yet, throughout the year, Pruit was more proud of the passion he showed while becoming the best blocker he can be.
With all of the recognition he's received, the multiple All-American selection knew that he would draw plenty of attention from opposing defenses as a senior. That doesn't concern him, because he was confident Southern Illinois had enough other play-makers, such as wide receivers LaSteven McKinney (39 receptions in 2014) and Tay Willis (47 for 624 yards and six scores, along with tailback Malcolm Agnew (820 yards and ten touchdowns rushing, with two more receiving scores) to keep defenses honest.
Pruitt has been well-known by front office types at the St. Louis Rams complex, as he excelled a few miles away from the team address as a standout performer at Kirkwood High School, the same place that Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin attended.
He was actually more successful on the opposite side of the ball, earning All-Conference three times as a defensive end before receiving first-team accolades as a tight end in 2009. That year, he caught 30 passes for 397 yards and six touchdowns. On defense, he posted 50 tackles, 14.5 stops-for-loss and six sacks.
Pruitt helped the team advance to the second round of the playoffs in his junior season, as they went 10-1 and made the state playoffs during his sophomore year. He had caught seven passes for 148 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman and was a four-time honor roll student. He also played basketball and volleyball, leading the hoops team to the 2008-09 district championship.
It was very surprising when Pruitt failed to gain attention from recruiters from the University of Missouri. Out-of-state colleges offered him scholarships, but Pruitt decided to stay close to home and was impressed with the academic program at Southern Illinois. While red-shirting as a freshman in 2010, he earned the first of four yearly academic awards when he was named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference Honor Roll.
Pruitt’s first season with the varsity saw the team’s Most Valuable Player emerge, adding league All-Freshman Team and also Freshman All-American honors. He led the team with 43 receptions for 562 yards (13.07 ypc) and three touchdowns. Once he moved into the starting lineup, he caught at least three passes in each of those eight appearances.
As a sophomore, Pruitt began to stake claim to national honors, as the All-American and All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection again led the team, pulling down 49 balls for 577 yards (11.78 ypc) and four scores, ranking fourth among the Football Champion-ship Subdivision’s tight ends in receiving yards while placing sixth for average catches per game (4.5).
Pruitt was a consensus All-American choice in 2013, but a left tibia fracture suffered vs. Missouri State would sideline him for two games, costing him that rare opportunity to lead the team in receptions for each of his collegiate campaigns. He finished third on the squad, as he gained 601 yards with five touchdowns on 48 catches. His yardage total was still good enough to rank third in the nation among tight ends at the FCS level, with his reception total placing third nationally at his position.
Fully recovered from his broken leg, Pruitt put on quite a show, as he was named the division’s National Tight End of the Year by College Football Performance Awards, along with being a unanimous All-American and All-MVFC first-team choice. His school record 81 receptions led all FCS tight ends and ranked 12th overall in the nation. His 861 yards receiving is fifth-best on the school annual record chart and his thirteen touchdowns rank second, tying for seventh overall and tops for tight ends in the FCS ranks.
Based on his impressive performance at Southern Illinois, following by another solid effort during the practices leading up to the 2015 East-West Shrine Game, Pruitt has proven that he is one of the elite prospects at the FCS level. In addition to being named CFPA Tight End of the Year, he was also named the Football Championship Subdivision’s top tight end by the Athletics Directors Association.
CAREER NOTESPruitt started 41-of-44 games at Southern Illinois, as the standout pass catcher hauled in 221 balls for 2,601 yards (11.77 ypc) with 25 touchdowns, adding 89 yards on seven kickoff returns (12.71 avg)…Also recorded one solo tackle as a senior.
NCAA Career-Record Results…Among active NCAA Football Championship Subdivision players, Pruitt tied with Alabama’s Montarius Smith for the third-most receptions (221), topped by only R.J. Harris of New Hampshire (310) and Brian Wetzel of Fordham (286). Ranks 11th overall with an average of 5.02 receptions per game and 13th with 2,601 yards receiving…Is ninth within that group in touchdown catches…Among the current tight ends at the FCS level, Pruitt leads that entire group in receptions, receptions per game, yards receiving and average yards gained per game…The only FCS tight end with more touch-down catches that Pruitt is Andrew Robustelli of Jacksonville (26).
Missouri Valley Football Conference Career-Record Results…Pruitt became the first tight end in league history to gain 2,000 yards receiving (2,601), as his 221 receptions are the most ever by a MVFC tight end and placed fourth on the overall chart behind wide receivers Tyrone Walker of Illinois State (250; 2009-12), Eddie Berlin of Northern Iowa (249; 1997-2000) and Mike Furrey of Northern Iowa (242; 1997-99)…His 2,601 yards receiving took over the seventh spot on the league all-time record chart and his 25 touchdown catches were also good for seventh, as his scoring grabs set the league tight end record.
Missouri Valley Football Conference Season-Record Results…Pruitt’s 81 receptions in 2014 rank sixth on the league’s overall list and are the most ever by a tight end…His thirteen touchdown catches in 2014 tied Ricky Garrett of Illinois State for sixth on the MVFC season-record list.
School Career-Record Results…Pruitt set the school record with 221 receptions, joining Cornell Craig (207; 1996-99) as the only Salukis to catch at least 200 passes during a career…The only SIU player with more touchdown catches than Pruitt’s 25 is Craig (37)…With 2,601 yards receiving, Pruitt joins Craig (3,508) as the only Salukis with 2,500 yards receiving in a career.
School Season-Record Results…Pruitt set the school season-record with 81 receptions in 2014, surpassing the old mark of 77 by Cornell Craig in 1999…His 861 receiving yards in 2014 is fifth-best in a season at SIU, ranking behind Craig (1,419 in 1999; 1,036 in 1997; 927 in 1998), John Lantz (885 in 2013) and Brent Little (822 in 2004)…His 13 touchdown catches in 2014 were two shy of Craig’s school annual record of 15 that he set during the 1999 campaign.