Kyle Prater stood before his new teammates after practice Monday to take part in a Northwestern football ritual.
He began: “My name is K.P. …”
And with that, the Wildcats started cackling.
Protocol demands that new players, usually freshmen, announce their full names, position, hometown and high school. Everyone in the semicircle knew that Prater, an All-America receiver at Proviso West, had transferred from USC. But that didn’t matter.
“He didn’t do too badly,” said NU quarterback Kain Colter, who will share an apartment with Prater beginning this summer. “We always give those guys a hard time.”
The ribbing began during warmups, when Colter and wideout Rashad Lawrence hammed it up after they noticed a photographer zooming in on the newcomer.
“If you want to get on camera,” Colter said, “you need to stand by him.”
Prater does bring a celebrity quality to Northwestern. Rivals.com rated him the nation’s No. 1 receiver two years ago and predicted: “Should have the same impact at the next level as Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Michael Floyd or DeAndre Brown did as a true freshman.”
Thumb and hamstring injuries led to his being redshirted as a freshman at USC. Last season a foot issue -- plus the presence of stud receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee -- limited him to one catch in 10 games.
Prater has been medically cleared, but NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said Northwestern has him on a “pitch count” both because of his inactivity and newness to NU’s spread offense.
Fitzgerald on Monday said Prater “looked like a guy who hasn’t played football in a while. There’s so much on his plate.”
Colter was less restrained, comparing the 6-foot-5, 221-pound Prater to the NFL’s most feared receiver: “It’s almost like we have a ‘Megatron’ on our team, a Calvin Johnson-like guy ... He’s the biggest target we have. And he’s smooth and really athletic.”
Prater won’t turn 20 until June and might have to wait until he’s legal to make an impact. Northwestern is petitioning the NCAA for a waiver that would allow him to play this fall, rather than sit out a season.
It has been reported that Prater has an ill relative in Chicago, but Fitzgerald declined to elaborate and said he has “no idea” when the NCAA will decide.
“We’ll exhaust every avenue possible,” he said. “I think the NCAA is very understanding when it comes to situations like this. Kyle’s a great student with high character. It’s great to have a Chicagoan playing Big Ten football in Chicago.”
Prater was not available for comment Monday because practice ended at 10:30 a.m. and he had class at 11. He tweeted to his 3,500-plus followers Monday afternoon via @DaReal_21: “Feels good to be back in school and being apart of great football team and also building team chemistry again, so humbled”
Extra points: Last year Fitzgerald had the players in pads during their first practice following spring break. “It was a mistake,” he said, “so we tweaked it.” The Wildcats knocked off the rust Monday in shells and will practice again Tuesday and Thursday to build toward Saturday’s 100-play, informal scrimmage. The spring exhibition is April 14 at noon … Best wishes to Mike Wolf, who has left Northwestern after serving as the school’s award-winning director of athletic communications since 2001 … NU football players earned a school-record 3.14 team grade-point average in the winter quarter … John Shurna was named Honorable Mention All-America by AP, NU’s highest individual honor since Evan Eschmeyer made the second team in 1999.
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