e_SDLqWe had to run away from him, and you remember those guys because they’re playmakers. ” chad germany, Southern QBs coach
There’s no missing Benay Pryer.
At 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, Southern’s new defensive tackle stands out immediately — a giant, hulking No. 99 that immediately caught his teammates’ eyes when he arrived for fall training camp.
At first, kicker Gregory Pittman thought Pryer must be a coach. Offensive lineman Zach Brown didn’t know much about Pryer either, but he sure seemed like a valuable asset.
“He just looks like he would be a good player,” Brown said.
Turns out, he is.
In just two weeks as a Jaguar, the Baton Rouge native and former Belaire High School standout has worked his way up from mysterious newcomer to starter, where he has a chance to become a hometown hero with the first-team defense.
“Every day since I came here has been a total grind for me to work my way up to the No. 1 spot that I have right now,” Pryer said. “It’s all on me if I want to keep starting. My spot could easily be taken.”
When Pryer arrived, the Jaguars weren’t sure what kind of player he would be. He was a big body, but that was all most people knew about him.
Following his Belaire career, Pryer committed to play at LSU, but academic issues led him to junior college. His next stop was UL-Lafayette, but after an injury he was switched to play offensive tackle.
Being a backup on the other side of the ball wasn’t his idea of a fairy-tale senior year, so upon graduating from ULL, he began looking elsewhere.
With one year of eligibility remaining, why not come back home and play for the Jaguars?
He remembered Southern quarterbacks coach Chad Germany from his days coaching against Belaire at Capitol, and he put in a call.
Germany remembered him, too. There’s no forgetting a guy with Pryer’s size.
“He was one of those guys you had to prepare for when you make the game plan,” Germany said. “We had to run away from him, and you remember those guys because they’re playmakers. If you have a chance to get a guy like that into a program you’re a part of, that’s great.”
Pryer got the go-ahead and transferred to Southern, where he’s now in a graduate program for therapeutic recreation.
And he didn’t waste much time proving Germany right.
Once he got his camp legs under him, Pryer started backing up his size with skill.
“He’s more comfortable in his role, and more comfortable in the defense,” defensive line coach Myron Jackson said. “He has so many more intangibles. We’re blocking more passes now in practices than we ever have before.”
Pryer’s height has come in handy batting down throws, but it has presented a challenge.
Brown, who often lines up across from Pryer in practice, said the keys to stopping him are staying low and keeping him at an arm’s length, because when Pryer gets too close, he can spin or swim his way past.
When Pryer doesn’t get low enough, it makes him easier to handle, and he sometimes struggles to keep his big body low to the ground.
“Staying low has been the biggest thing,” Pryer said. “Once I stay low, you can’t block me. At all.”
That statement contains both confidence and truth, which is why Pryer figures as a starter on the line alongside nose tackle Casey Narcisse and ends Kadeem Lewis and Delwin Williams. He also features as an end in 3-4 formations — a nod to his somewhat surprising athleticism.
All that has Pryer aiming for Southwestern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year this season, but his first objective is more team oriented.
“There was talent already here before I even got here,” Pryer said. “I’m just an accessory. I just make it look better. Everything has been good so far, and all the guys, we have that same goal and are busting our tails every day to strive to that SWAC championship. That’s the only thing that really matters.”
And he plans to accomplish all of that in front of a ton of familiar faces.
When he starts listing off the family names of relatives in the area, it goes on and on.
“Getting those tickets man, it’s crazy trying to get those tickets,” he said. “You have to get the tickets for your mom — your mom’s going to always be there. Then your aunt, then your uncles, then your cousins, and then your neighbors.”
“It’s kind of hard to get 200 tickets for everybody in the neighborhood,” he added. “I’m pretty sure everybody is going to find a way to make it up here whether they have a ticket or not just to support me and the Jaguars because we’re up and coming this year. It’s a whole new outlook, a whole new attitude, and we’re destined for greatness.”
Pryer is a big part of that new outlook — literally and figuratively — and maybe, if he keeps moving up, he’ll help restore that greatness to his hometown Jaguars.