From News & Observer Published: Nov 20, 2005 12:30 AM
Modified: Nov 20, 2005 05:24 AM
http://www.newsobserver.com/122/v-print/story/369364.html(NCCU) Eagles' Pruitt impresses both coacheshttp://www.nccu.edu/campus/athletics
Jaymes Powell Jr., Staff Writer
It was a day when Greg Pruitt Jr. took mastery of his own name -- no matter what the outcome.
Before N.C. Central's 24-21 Division II playoff loss to North Alabama, UNA coach Greg Hudspeth said he planned to tell the Eagles' running back just how much he respected his father, Greg Pruitt Sr., a five-time NFL Pro Bowler.
But after the way Pruitt Jr. performed Saturday, Hudspeth had even more respect for the son. With strong, powerful running, Pruitt nearly guided the Eagles to a playoff victory, rushing for 118 bruising yards on 32 carries.
"I looked for Pruitt after the game, unfortunately, I couldn't find him. I wanted to tell him that he was just as good -- or even better -- than his old man out there today," said Hudspeth, who grew up idolizing Pruitt's father. "[Pruitt Jr.] is a heck of a back, and he did an outstanding job today."With the Eagles spreading the field with four wideouts in the first half, Pruitt was able to exploit the Lions for 93 yards rushing before halftime. The junior played so well, that with NCCU leading 21-14 at the half, Central coach Rod Broadway challenged his players during intermission to emulate Pruitt.
"In the first half, the way Greg was running the football, he was the best player on the football field, by far," Broadway said. "He was playing faster than anyone else on the football field. It wasn't surprising that he was having the success that he had. We challenged the team at halftime that everybody play at that level.
"It was unbelievable, the job that Pruitt did. He played like a warrior out there today."
Pruitt, at times, almost seemed to break the will of North Alabama, which had given up only 88.4 rushing yards per game this season coming in. Pruitt said much of his success was based in anxiety, as NCCU played its first NCAA playoff game since 1988.
"For the first time in a long time, I was really nervous before the game. It was my first time being in the playoffs," he said. "The only way I know how to react was to just leave it all out on the field."
Pruitt has left a lot on the field this season. Despite playing in a pass-heavy offense, Pruitt amassed 1,172 rushing yards this season and is the only player in NCCU history to have consecutive 1,000 rushing seasons.
With his yardage Saturday, Pruitt tied Benjamin Tate with 2,275 career rushing yards, good for fourth all-time at NCCU. His season total is second all-time for the Eagles behind Joe Simmons' 1,699 in 1993.
Most of Pruitt's yards Saturday came inside; many were on plays in which he broke two or more tackles.
"It was the speed I was playing at," said Pruitt, who is usually more of an outside runner. "Second and third effort allowed me to break some tackles, make some plays."
Staff writer Jaymes Powell Jr. can be reached at 829-4556 or firstname.lastname@example.org