— Football seemed like a breeze for wide receiver Byron Pringle during the the past two seasons at Kansas State, but his trials off the field make this weekend’s rookie minicamp a first triumph in what he hopes is a long NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I take this opportunity as a blessing coming from where I came from and being able to capitalize on this opportunity,” Pringle said.
The 6-foot-1, 203-pound receiver from Tampa, Fla., traveled a quixotic journey to Kansas City. Most college programs shied away from Pringle after legal problems kept him off the field for his junior season. He signed on as a grayshirt recruit at Youngstown State but never played a down there.
He sat out the 2013 reason before catching on at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan. Coaches there raved about this leadership and work ethic. He proved enough during a single season on the field to earn his way to Kansas State.
Pringle proved an explosive big-play receiver as a Wildcat. He caught 69 passes for 1,355 and 10 touchdowns for head coach Bill Snyder over his two season in Manhattan. His 24.1 yards per catch last season led all receivers in this year’s draft class.
Pringle said he learned much playing for Kansas State about the mental toughness required for life after college football.
“Being accountable, make sure you’re on time, make sure you’re at your meetings,” Pringle said. “Just being well prepared and not just for football but for the real world.”
The 24-year-old wideout reunited at the Chiefs’ minicamp with a former adversary. Pringle and sixth-round cornerback selection Tremon Smith matched up last September in the Wildcats’ 55-19 win over Central Arkansas City. Kansas State piled up 333 yards passing, and Pringle led the team with 121 yards receiving on three catches with a touchdown.
Pringle developed a relationship with Smith that grew during the days and weeks leading up to the NFL draft.
“I remember during that game he came up to me after we threw the ball for a couple of hundred yards on them. He was like, “Man, I thought you all was a running team,’” Pringle said with a laugh.
Pringle hopes to catch on with the Chiefs as a wide receiver and special teams player. He’s done both during the minicamp, and turned in a solid performance as a pass catcher on day one. Pringle also hopes “being a positive person and keeping my smile on my face like I’m always doing” will open doors as a good teammate and positive locker room influence.
Nothing about his first few days as an NFL player seemed to phase him on the field.
“The tempo is different from Kansas State and along with verbiage with the play calling than I was used to at Kansas State but other than that I’m catching on pretty well,” Pringle said.
After Monday’s final rookie minicamp practice, players head home for a week until Phase II of the offseason program resumes. The Chiefs signed Pringle to the 90-man roster, putting him a step ahead of the majority of college free agents on a tryout basis.
Pringle knows he has much support from local Kansas State fans and friends back in Manhattan, but all of his recent focus concentrated on this rookie minicamp.
“A couple of people have been reaching out but I’ve been focused on the playbook and ready to work,” Pringle said. “I’ll have to touch base with them after this camp is over with.”