Prater picks USC over Illini, Irish
HILLSIDE, Ill. -- Following a drum roll by Proviso West's marching band on Wednesday, Kyle Prater stepped to the podium. And after a few sentences, he announced, "Let's get things started."
Prater pulled out a USC hat from a small gift bag, stuck it on his head and a theatre full of family, teachers, teammates and students erupted in cheers and applause. As many had assumed heading into the news conference, the lure of being another big-name Trojans wide receiver was too great to pass up for the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Prater.
"My dream one day is to play in the NFL," said Prater, who also put on a USC pullover jacket after his announcement. "That's why I picked USC.
"The coaches are great, and they give me the best opportunity to get there. I'd like to thank God for putting me in this situation. Without Him, I would be nowhere."
Prater chose USC over Illinois, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Being the in-state school, Illinois' football staff and supporters were certainly all over Prater during the recruiting process. Proviso West coach Famous Hulbert also happens to be a former Illini player, so it made Prater's decision a tougher one.
"I told coach [Ron] Zook I wish I had two Kyle Praters -- one to wherever he wants to go and the other send him where I want him to go," Hulbert said. "But it doesn't work like that. The hardest part of this process was telling coach Zook he wasn't going to be in Illini Nation.
"It came down to being his decision. It's his life. I told his parents that. At the end of the day, it's his life. I don't want him to have any regrets about anything."
Prater was sold on USC after making an unofficial visit to the campus with Hulbert in early August. He was impressed by the team's practices and its players. When he returned from the trip, Prater knew that's where he was going.
"I just didn't want to go anywhere else," he said.
Prater is considered one of the top-10 receivers in the country by Scouts, Inc.
"Kyle Prater is a mammoth wide receiver with a frame that has yet to fill out," ESPN Scouts, Inc.'s director of recruiting Tom Luginbill said. "He has rare height and possesses possibly the longest wingspan of any receiver in this class. He is long and lean and extremely flexible for a player with his size. Prater also displays supreme body control, can adjust to poorly thrown balls and makes acrobatic catches look easy.
"Prater may be raw as a route-runner because he gets by on size and athleticism, but once he becomes crisp and learns to rely on more than just talent he could become a real mismatch. He is a red-zone nightmare for defensive backs and an excellent prospect."
Prater will enroll at USC for the spring semester after he graduates from Proviso West in December. Prater had 60 receptions for 948 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He had 263 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a playoff loss to Hinsdale Central.
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.