Aug. 17, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- When he signed with the program in February of 2009, Lonnie Pryor had visions of being the next great running back in Florida State history.
Now entering his third season with the Seminoles, Pryor is working on that very legacy -- except of course for one important detail. Instead of forging a trail as an FSU runner, he is making a name for himself as the guy who paves a path for the running backs.
"My freshman year I took a couple of reps at running back then [the coaches] said I was moving to fullback," said Pryor, who has played in every game for the 'Noles as a fullback the last two years. "I almost cried when they did that at practice. I talked to Coach [Jimbo] Fisher and we stayed on the phone for about an hour talking about it and he explained everything to me. Looking at it now I think it was a great decision.
"I still sometimes get the ball at running back and I am happy with the job I have now running out of the backfield, scoring and blocking and doing what I can to help my team. Anything that helps us win I am happy to do it."
Thought of by his fellow Seminoles as one of the funniest members of the team, Pryor is also one of the hardest workers. In a sport like college football all-too-frequently generates negative headlines because of "me first" athletes, his "team first" attitude is infectious.
"I think Lonnie is a real selfless guy," starting running back Chris Thompson said. "Me and him coming in together we both expected to play running back. After he talked to the coaches I remember him saying he wanted to be the best fullback to ever play at FSU. I think Lonnie is a real big leader for us as a team. Whatever we need him to do he is down to do it without any attitude or anything like that. He's a great guy to be around."
After starting four games as a freshman in 2009 and becoming the only first-year player to participate in all 13 contests that season, Pryor burst on to the scene in 2010. He finished his sophomore campaign tied for the team lead in touchdowns with seven by registering three scoring receptions and running into the endzone four different times. He also added 12 catches for 69 yards.
Pryor's offensive production wasn't just limited to personally updating the scoreboard. The Okeechobee, Fla. native also became a standout lead blocker and has drawn comparisons to former FSU great Edgar Bennett.
"When we have the package where the fullback is in, he's almost like another lineman for us," starting left tackle Andrew Datko said. "When I watch film from the last couple of years he's cleaning up the linebackers and making those holes for the running backs."
Florida State coaches learned early on that Pryor is a worthy weapon of choice in the offensive arsenal. Not only can he run like a tailback and catch like a wide receiver, he can block like a true fullback.
But serving as the battering ram against defenders can take its toll. There's a reason that fullbacks have to thrive in the weight room. They need the strength and size necessary to crash into linebackers and throw their bodies around on every play.
Pryor played at 215 pounds last season and luckily avoided injury. But running backs coach Eddie Gran wanted some assurance that his star fullback would stay healthy and safe on the football field. He suggested Pryor would be better suited for the rigors of the position if he bulked up to around 225 pounds before the start of the 2011 campaign.
"I went really hard in the weight room," Pryor said. "Right now I am weighing 230. Getting my weight up was a big thing because it can make me more effective at fullback."
Pryor's increase in size is noticeable both visually and, according to his roommate, on the grocery bill.
"Lonnie has put on some weight; he is eating me out of house and home," junior kicker Dustin Hopkins said with a laugh. "If I leave something in the refrigerator too long, the next time I check it's gone. So I have to keep an eye on him."
Hopkins isn't the only Seminole that is keeping a close watch on Pryor. The FSU running backs are too because they like it when he's in the formation.
Last season, Thompson, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas all accrued per-rush averages of 6.3, 6.1 and 5.7 yards, respectively. Pryor wasn't in on every one of those tailbacks' carries but he certainly contributed to the overall high numbers.
Thompson, who had three touchdown runs of over 70 yards last season, is particularly grateful for Pryor's prowess as a punishing lead blocker.
"Every single long run that I had last year always happened behind blocks from Lonnie," Thompson said. "Every time we call a run and he's in there he looks back at me and is like, 'just follow me.' I trust him enough that if he tells me to follow him I will and he usually leads me to the promised land."