Bill Snyder is often hesitant to single out top performers during Kansas State’s spring football practices, but he has no such reservation when it comes to sophomore receiver Byron Pringle.
“He continues to learn the system, and he is learning it rather rapidly,” Snyder said Tuesday at a news conference. “As he does, you see the skill level enhance itself a great deal. He sticks out in my mind.”
Teammates also have stories about Pringle, a 6-foot-2, 212-pound playmaker who transferred from Butler Community College.
Ask them to describe the top highlight plays from spring practices, and many of them involve Pringle beating his defender for a touchdown or making an acrobatic catch. There is talk he could be the top junior-college transfer to join K-State’s offense since former running back Daniel Thomas. At the least, he figures to be a welcome addition to a receiving corps that lacked athleticism and depth a year ago.
“He is someone who will just go get the ball,” K-State quarterback Alex Delton said. “He is definitely athletic. His speed and his strength are both eye-catching, but his attack mentality is something that really sets him apart.”
Added linebacker Will Davis: “He continues to do special things, whether it be great catches, jumping over guys or making one-handed catches. I think the biggest improvement I have seen from him throughout the course of spring practices is just getting a better understanding of the offense. He has caught on really fast.”
The early returns have been good with Pringle, and no one is more pleased than Snyder, who took a risk signing him.
Pringle has a criminal past. When he was 16, he was arrested and charged with multiple felonies for participating in a series of crimes in his hometown of Tampa, Fla., according to Hillsborough County court documents. The charges included burglary, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and grand theft. His punishment: four years of probation and 100 hours of community service. He also sat out his junior season of high school before returning to the team as a senior.
He served his probation and bounced around colleges. He originally signed with Youngstown State in 2012, but he lost his opportunity to play there after another arrest in 2013. According to court documents, Pringle, then 19, was charged in Hillsborough County for robbery, but the charge was later dropped.
Butler coach Tim Schaffner said Pringle’s original plan was to delay enrollment, or grayshirt, at Youngstown State for one year and then play four. Instead, he spent two years away from college and then redshirted for the Grizzlies in 2014 before catching 28 passes for 432 yards and nine touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last season. He is 22 and has three years of college eligibility remaining.
“He took advantage of his second opportunity,” Schaffner said. “His dream, his way out, was in jeopardy of being taken away, and that scared him straight. He grew up and learned from the mistakes he made as a younger person. He got himself on track. We never had a single problem with him. He was a great leader for us.”
K-State has not made Pringle available to reporters since he joined the team, but he expressed remorse about the second arrest in an interview with Rivals last November.
“As I look back at it, and as I got older, it’s a lesson learned,” he said of his arrest. “That wasn’t my character. That was just something that happened. That’s how I put it. It happened, but I had support around me. Coming from poverty, somebody not having a dad there, I did have my high school coaches, my brothers, my cousins, coach (Eric) Wolford and coach (Andre) Coleman to teach me right from wrong.
“Somebody can be your friend, but not really be your friend. One false move in your life can get you penalized forever. I was remorseful about everything that happened, but you grow from it, and build from it, and learn not to do that again. It makes you want to grind more and more.”
Schaffner recommended Pringle to K-State receivers coach Coleman, who also recruited Pringle to Youngstown State.
“He is just explosive,” Schaffner said. “He is the prototypical guy coaches look for at wide receiver. He is bigger, he is strong, he is fast, he can change direction and he snatches anything that comes his way. He had some of the best hands I’ve ever seen.”
Snyder watched Pringle on film and quickly labeled him a difference-maker, the type of player who could help K-State immediately. Still, he was hesitant to offer Pringle a scholarship.
“It took a long time to make a decision to have him here,” Snyder said. “People get irritated with me about that, but I needed to sit down with him and spend time with him. It was that simple. Once you sit down and spend an hour with him, you realize this guy can do it. He is really a genuine, caring, good person.”
Snyder said he had doubts about Pringle’s past but is optimistic about his future.
“That’s one of the reasons that we waited so long. He had some problems,” Snyder said. “He and I went into great length on what those issues were and he was exonerated, which certainly was important, but it wasn’t the most significant thing. The most significant thing was who he was and who he could become. I was convinced.
“He has proven that every step of the way since he has been here. If you visited with him, you would probably get the same impression. He’s an awfully good young guy.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett