LIGONIER — The phrase “Brandon Pruitt, Division-I football player” is still taking some getting used to for the West Noble senior — even if he thinks it sounds cool.
“Honestly, I love the sound of that,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt committed to the Naval Academy last week to continue his football career after high school. The post-college options with the Naval Academy were just too much for him to pass up.
“During the spring, a lot of coaches came out to West Noble and talked to me. There was a lot of great opportunities,” Pruitt said. “Navy just offers so much after football. Of all the people that came to the school and talked to me, I think they offer the most for me and the best opportunity for me after I graduate.”
West Noble football coach Monte Mawhorter wasn’t surprised a kid like Pruitt was recruited by Navy.
“There are not many kids that you coach that you would target for (the Navy), especially that talented of a kid,” Mawhorter said. “Brandon, he’s different. He’s all about work ethic and getting things done, making sure the team does well. He is a perfect fit.”
After originally committing to Western Illinois University on July 14, a Navy assistant coach called Pruitt. The two sides had been in talks, but Pruitt said Navy didn’t want to offer him a scholarship until after he visited campus in Annapolis, Maryland. After the assistant talked about it with the rest of the Navy coaching staff, they decided to offer Pruitt a scholarship before he visited.
Eight days later, Pruitt changed his commitment from the Leathernecks to the Midshipmen.
“Previously, I didn’t have that offer. That would’ve impacted my decision earlier,” Pruitt said. “I had a lot of conversations with my family and friends. I had talked to my parents about going into the armed forces prior to that, so it’s a great opportunity for me.”
Decommitting from Western Illinois was a tough decision for Pruitt.
“Since I had already committed, I’m not one of those guys that wants to take that for granted. I understand it’s an awesome opportunity,” Pruitt said. “I liked Western Illinois. It was a great place. I didn’t want to be that guy that decommits after liking what they have.”
The 6-2, 215-pound Pruitt had a sensational junior season on both sides of the ball for West Noble. He rushed for 1,555 yards and 17 touchdowns as a running back and recorded 79 tackles and 13 sacks as a linebacker. West Noble finished with a record of 8-3, the most wins in a season since 2005.
“I wasn’t very surprised. I feel like a lot of our fans were, but we had a good group of seniors. Everyone was working hard all offseason,” Pruitt said. “We all got along, we worked together and I think that makes a big difference heading into a season.”
Despite a great season, Pruitt wants more. The Chargers lost to Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, 45-21, in the sectional semifinal last year. With their top three offensive players coming back in Pruitt, wide receiver Josh Gross and quarterback Kyle Mawhorter, along with fellow linebacker Raven Slone, expectations are high for West Noble.
The Chargers have only won multiple postseason games in a season once — 1990 — when they advanced to the sectional championship game.
“There’s always pressure going into a season after you had a good one. It just comes with it,” Pruitt said. “Overall, I know what it takes to have a good season. We all just have to keep working hard. We’re not at the place we need to be yet, but I think we’re on the right track.”
“We have to replace all of our lineman, so that’ll take a little while to get everyone on the same page. They’re not going to be as physical up front, so Brandon is going to have to run harder,” Mawhorter added. “Everybody knows who Brandon is and they’re all going to try to shut him down. But I think we have some kids that are capable of doing some things we haven’t seen yet.”
Committing to Navy means Pruitt will get an opportunity to face the school he’s grown up cheering for, Notre Dame, every year. The two teams will play the 2020 season opener in Ireland next year.
“That’s awesome. Navy’s always had close games with them for the most part,” Pruitt said. “Having the chance to play for Navy and play Notre Dame every year. Then, you also have the Army-Navy game, which is awesome, too.”
As for now, Pruitt wants to focus on his final year of high school before going to college.
“I’m happy for the opportunity I was blessed to receive. God’s helped me a lot there, and I’m excited about it,” Pruitt said. “I want to complete my senior season before I think too much about it.”
Austin Hough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN