Pryor family

Hammond grad Erik Pryor, right, is pictured with his family — wife Inid, daughter Troi and son Evan. Evan Pryor will be a sophomore in high school this fall and he's one of the top-ranked running backs in the country in his class.

We're told to cut the cord when our children reach a certain age, encourage them to leave the nest and experience life on their own.

Erik Pryor, a 1983 Hammond grad and former football and track standout, doesn't have that concern at the moment. He's busy protecting his son, a star athlete, with a bodyguard approach.

He has to.

Evan Pryor is a sophomore at William Amos Hough High School in Cornelius, North Carolina. One website, Irish Sports Daily, refers to the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder as the country's "Top 2021 running back."

Of course, that's crazy. How can anyone know this early about a young athlete's true potential?

"It certainly does surprise you because I don't think we've arrived. We've haven't done anything," said Erik Pryor, adding that his son got exposure by participating in high-profile, "invite" camps across the country.

Evan Pryor ran a 10.85 in the 100-meter dash at the state track meet this spring as a freshman, which was good for second place in Class 4A.

He already has offers from Georgia, Penn State, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Wake Forest and South Carolina, according to his father.

Recruiting can be dirty. It has its snakes, its undesirables, all vying for the best talent at any cost.

Erik Pryor knows this and he's prepared for them.

"What we're trying to do is making sure we're always around when he's receiving these phone calls because they're coming out of the woodwork these days," Erik Pryor said.

"They're calling at 9:30 or 10 o'clock at night and me and my wife might be sleeping."

Erik Pryor added: "We make sure we keep his phone near us because they're not calling to speak to the parents. Those days are over. They're trying to speak to the kids, so we have to protect him."

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Erik Pryor is a communications engineer whose daughter Troi attends Penn State. He said some recruiters ask young athletes questions that are more suited "for 50-year-olds" than teens.

It's just another reason he and wife Inid must be overly cautious.

"We just stay close and listen for his phone to ring, then ask who it is and the reason they're calling," Erik said. "We monitor all social media because one re-tweet by a (recruited) kid and that's it. So we monitor it as well and that's a full-time job in itself."

Evan Pryor appreciates their effort.

"I don't focus on all the outside offers and what other coaches say," Evan Pryor said. "Being a kid and playing football, I just work hard and let all the other stuff come along later in my high school career."

Erik Pryor played high school football for coach Tom Zasada and ran track for Jim Brown. His tough, blue-collar upbringing in Hammond forced him to work twice as hard for everything.

In an effort to give back to the community, Erik Pryor ran his "4 Quarters 4 Life" camp for the city's less fortunate children every summer from 2010 to 2016.

"I bring cleats and I feed 'em food and a lot of successful people come out to speak, like doctors and lawyers," Erik Pryor said. "Because so many kids had fun there, I think I'm gonna come back this summer but it's only gonna be for running backs and receivers."

Erik Pryor said his son is aware of the hard work and long hours ahead before he is deserving of such hype. The door is ajar, it's up to him to bust it down.

"I know Tom Franks. I know Ty Higgs. I know Jawann Turner and Rodney Dennis," Erik Pryor said of the former Hammond standout athletes. "I know what great athletes they were. But the only difference between them and my son is he's a national recruit.

"It's all about opportunity."

Thanks to social media, that double-edged sword.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.