Take a look at Byron Pringle’s last 18 months and you’d forgive him if he ever gets down on himself.
The Chiefs wide receiver has been through quite a bit.
On the first day of 2018, Pringle announced his decision to forgo his final season at Kansas State, where he shined as the Wildcats’ best receiver, and declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft. Pringle was 24 and the father of one, so the move made sense.
Four months later, the draft had come and gone ... and Pringle’s name was not called.
He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as a free agent and remained in the mix when August rolled around and the Chiefs kicked off their preseason schedule. Through their first three games, Pringle caught two balls for a total of 25 yards. But in his fourth and final contest, Pringle had racked up four receptions for 122 yards.
Then, disaster struck.
Pringle left the game, a 33-21 win over the Green Bay Packers, with a hamstring injury. It sidelined him for the entire 2018 season.
Damn, Pringle thought to himself. My opportunity is gone.
That wasn’t the case, because the Chiefs saw enough potential in Pringle to slide him over to the injured-reserve list and keep him around, but even now, he’s fighting for a roster spot as the 2019 preseason looms.
So surely he gets down sometimes.
“It’s hard for me to get down. I always attack every day with a positive mindset,” Pringle said after the Chiefs’ Monday practice. “I don’t get down. I get down when I start missing my sons, but other than that, I don’t get down.”
In short, that’s Pringle: positive, energetic and determined, with enough NFL potential to match the mindset he preaches so enthusiastically.
It starts with his athleticism.
First off, he stands 6-foot-2, which doesn’t sound like anything notable until you consider the other parts of Pringle’s appeal: He runs a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, and he’s strong for his position. Both attributes helped Pringle stand out in his two years at K-State, and the latter is what Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he’s noticed as training camp marches on.
“I like what he’s doing. We’ve expanded his role, so you’ll see him mixed in there, rotating him in,” Reid said. “So just getting back into the flow of things, coming off an injury. … He had good OTAs, and now he’s picking up from there, where it’s live and you’re going 100 miles an hour. I think he’s doing a good job. Strong. Strong player.”
Pringle will tell you he’s gotten to know all the Chiefs wideouts: Tyreek Hill and Gehrig Dieter, Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson, even Mecole Hardman and Cody Thompson, two rookies. They’re a tight group, Pringle says, but that may be part of the trouble for players like Pringle, who don’t have a spot on the 53-man roster locked down — there’s just so many receivers.
In the Chiefs’ first unofficial 2019 depth chart, released Sunday, Pringle was listed as the No. 6 wideout. That hardly solidifies Pringle’s place on the Week 1 depth chart, not in early August, but the Chiefs value him elsewhere on the field, too.
Special teams coordinator Matt Taub said he likes Pringle as a returner of kicks and punts.
“Pringle is a guy, a kick returner, that at the end of last year before he got hurt was really coming on,” Taub said. “He almost made the team before he got hurt. He is a guy that we are really going to look hard at.”
While Pringle isn’t among the specialists listed on the aforementioned depth chart, there’s some precedent here. Across his two years at K-State, Pringle became a two-time All-Big 12 kick returner, collecting more than 2,000 all-purpose yards as both a wide receiver and kick returner, and he finished second in school history in career yards per reception (19.64) and sixth in both career kickoff-return average (27.6) and total yards (1,076).
Funny story, actually.
Of the two kickoffs that Pringle returned for touchdowns in college, one came in October 2016, when K-State was hosting Texas Tech. In the second quarter, after the Wildcats grabbed a quick 24-21 lead, the Red Raiders responded with a rushing touchdown.
The man responsible? Patrick Mahomes.
The very next play, when Texas Tech kicked off, Mahomes watched from the sideline, hands hung on his chest pads, as Pringle darted and slipped through defenders and took the kickoff back 99 yards for a touchdown.
Now, the two are teammates, Pringle a blossoming wide receiver and Mahomes an MVP quarterback.
“It’s great catching from an MVP,” Pringle said. “It’s a great opportunity to even catch a ball from him. He hits you with the no-looks. You never know when that’s coming. You’ve got to be prepared.”
For the uninitiated: Mahomes has been known to unfurl a no-look pass on occasion. He did last season, in a win over the Ravens, and that’s not to mention the other circus passes Mahomes gained attention for completing during his breakout 2018 season.
Pringle experienced Mahomes’ wizardry firsthand this spring during OTAs when he snared a no-looker.
“When I caught it,” Pringle said, “I was like, ‘Oh ... It really came to me.’ I caught it and ran with it. You’ve got to always have your eyes open.”
Pringle may hail from Tampa, Florida, but he’s spent much of his football career in the state of Kansas.
He spent the 2015 season at Butler Community College in El Dorado before he transferred to K-State for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. There, he blossomed into a standout wide receiver in a Big 12 conference chock full of them.
That’s also where he learned a few lessons that he’s used to ascend to the position he holds now.
“It prepared me well,” Pringle said of K-State. “The communication, and being on time, and learning how to be a pro as well. At K-State, you’ve got to be accountable for a lot of things. That’s the main reason right there.”
Still, Pringle insists he doesn’t concern himself with the pattern. “As long I’m having the opportunity to play in the league, I’m happy,” he says. Besides, he’s trying to secure a roster spot.
The positive approach, he says, has played an irreplaceable role along the way.
“I’m just having a positive mindset, coming out here with a smile on my face,” Pringle said. “Just to be out here and have an opportunity every day to come and prove myself and get better each day.”