Small in stature, Oregon prep star hauls in biggest receiving record

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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Kraig Pruett breaks the national high school mark with 456 receiving yards. (Courtesy of Jovita Ballentine)  
Kraig Pruett breaks the national high school mark with 456 receiving yards. (Courtesy of Jovita Ballentine)    

One day after the game of his life, Kraig Pruett found out.

Even then, he wouldn't have known had it not been for a text message he received Saturday afternoon from his coach, Ed Townsend.

Pruett-a 5-foot-7, 170-pound wide receiver at Waldport High School (Waldport, Ore.)-was enjoying his Saturday after what he knew was a career-best performance.

But what he didn't know was that he surpassed the national high school record after amassing 456 receiving yards on 18 catches in a 48-0 win over Culver High School (Culver, Ore.). Pruett's story is just another example of a growing trend within high school football, in which previously unheralded athletes are producing unprecedented statistics.

"I thought I had a 300-yard game," Pruett said. "I knew I had a lot of catches and a lot of yards, but I didn't know it was that many. And then my coach texted me and I was like, 'Wow.' I was really shocked. And then he said, 'Kraig, that might be a record.' And I thought he meant a record in Oregon. Then I went online and looked it up and it was actually for the national one, and I was like, 'Wow, this is crazy.'"

Washington High School (South Bend, Ind.) standout Gehrig Dieter held the previous mark, when he totaled 437 receiving yards in a game last September. Dieter had been marginally recruited-mostly by MAC programs-prior to his historic performance. After he broke the record, Dieter started to gain greater recognition within the Midwest. When Kansas named Charlie Weis its head coach, Dieter was one of the first players to receive a scholarship offer under the new regime. It was his only BCS-conference offer, and Dieter ended up signing with SMU.

Pruett, who transferred from West Salem High School (West Salem, Ore.), a larger and more recognized football program, has not received any attention as a college football recruit. Because he has only been playing football for four years and because of his smaller stature, Pruett considers himself more of a baseball player.

That may be changing in the near future.

"Football has never been something I wanted to go to college for," he said. "I never really thought I would have an opportunity to get as many receiving yards as I did. My coach said, 'Kraig, this could go pretty big if you could get some offers.' At this point, I don't really know what will happen."

Glancing through the national record book, it's not a stretch to find a majority of the members to be obscure names unknown to even high school football enthusiasts. Granted, names such as Emmitt Smith and Peyton Manning litter the pages. But for the most part, the record holders are athletes who played their careers in anonymity.

If anyone knows that, it's Pruett's coach. Years ago, Townsend was a star football player at Newport High School (Newport, Ore.), who was barely recruited. Sensing he needed to be more proactive if he wanted to play at the next level, Townsend created highlight tapes and sent them to three in-state programs.

Eventually, he received a call from a coach at Southern Oregon University, where he ended up playing as a free safety.

"If you're a good player at a small school, you just have to market yourself a little bit," Townsend said. "I think a lot of college coaches are missing out a little bit. There are a lot of good players around."

Having a national record to your name certainly helps with that marketing plan.

Because Waldport didn't make the playoffs after its 5-5 season, Pruett said he will continue to work in the weight room and create a highlight reel to send to colleges. After Friday night's record-breaking performance, Pruett is going to have a lot more footage to edit.

A YouTube video depicting highlights from Pruett's record-setting game had 1,049 views as of Tuesday night. As word continues to spread of his achievement, that number will unquestionably rise. Pruett is just hoping that one of those people watching might be phoning him soon.

All of this, unquestionably, would have been impossible without the recognition from eclipsing the national record.

"Ideally, I'd just think it would be great if maybe even one coach just recognized me or something and gave me a little shout out and said, 'This kid is for real. He can do some things,'" Pruett said. "I think that would be cool-just to have one college coach say that."

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