Shrine Game helped elevate Pruitt to Vikings

MyCole Pruitt used a postseason all-star game to elevate his stock, turning his small-school experience into a big-league opportunity with the Minnesota Vikings.

It seems hard to fathom that a player who was a consensus first-team All-America could possibly fly under the radar, but Southern Illinois tight end MyCole Pruitt, a fifth-round selection of the Vikings, found a way.

In 2014, Pruitt led all Division I tight ends in receptions (81), yards (861) and touchdowns (13). Yet it wasn’t until the postseason cattle call tour that Pruitt started to get noticed by coaches and general managers and work his way up draft boards.

He dominated the competition in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, but it wasn’t until he flashed his skills at the East-West Shrine practices and the Scouting Combine that Pruitt got firmly on the map with NFL teams.

Playing against some top competition at the Shrine Game, Pruitt earned kudos for his week of practice, throwing a spotlight on him that had been missing much of his college career.

“I think it helped me a lot,” Pruitt said. “I was able to do really well in the practices. There were a lot of eyes on me out there and I was able to perform under pressure. I feel like that helped me a lot.”

He built on that momentum at the Combine, posting the top time among tight ends in the 40-yard dash (4.58 seconds), had the best vertical jump (38 inches) and was among the top performers in the 20-yard and 60-yard shuttles.

Pruitt credited that performance as the impetus to open eyes and getting teams to spend more time looking at game tape to isolate him and she what he could bring to the table sat the next level.

“It got my name out there and got me talked about a little bit more,” Pruitt said. “It made guys want to go back and look at my tape and see what I was actually about or if I was just somebody that worked out well.”

For those who watched his game tape, they saw a player with a similar skill set to that of Buffalo tight end Charles Clay, who earned his big contract with Buffalo by being a Swiss Army knife type for the Dolphins offense. Pruitt played a similar role with the Salukis, lining up in-line as both a blocker and receiver, in the slot and out wide.

It was the willingness not only to accept multiple roles, but to excel at them that made Pruitt stand out.

“At Southern, I was put all over the field, I got that experience and it helped a lot,” Pruitt said. “That’s what I’m ready to bring to the Vikings and make an impact wherever I’m playing on the field.”

Like a lot of tight ends that excel as receivers, Pruitt’s first love wasn’t football. It was basketball. His aspirations early on were centered on hoop dreams, but, as he grew and his athleticism became apparent, he made the switch to football.

“I grew up playing basketball all the time,” Pruitt said. “I didn’t start playing football until my freshman year of high school. But (football) ended up being the better route for me to go in. It definitely worked out.”

His role with the Vikings likely won’t be immediately defined, but he provides the position flexibility to do a lot of things and, given Norv Turner’s penchant for doing multiple things with tight ends, Pruitt could be a secret weapon for the team moving forward.< br>
He may have largely operated under the radar in college, but he realized his dream of being a NFL draft pick, even though it took his performances after he played his final game to potentially provide the biggest impact.

“This process has been amazing,” Pruitt said. “It’s been an extremely great blessing for me. I couldn’t have asked for anything better than becoming a Minnesota Viking today. I just appreciate the opportunity and can’t wait to make the most of it.”

In Case You Were Wondering…

  • Pruitt has one of the more interesting names of the 2015 draft class and he explained how he came to be given that unique first name.

    “My mom’s name is Colette and she made me her Cole, so she named me MyCole.”

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