Editor's Note: This marks the 30th anniversary of USA TODAY recognizing the nation's top high school athletes. As we prepare to unveil the 2012 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Football Team at the end of the season, we'll dig into the archives and check in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades. This week’s player is Richard Pryor, who made the ALL-USA defensive team in 1983. Today, he works as a dialysis technician, coaches youth football and is a father to four sons in Loganville, Ga.
Football was no joke for Richard Pryor.
Pryor, no relation to the late comic, was a 1983 first team All-USA defensive end from Elizabeth, N.J., who had 4.7 speed in the 40-yard dash and could bench press 400 pounds.
"I could have gone anywhere to college," Pryor said. "Notre Dame, Iowa and Nebraska started recruiting me after my sophomore year because they thought I was a senior."
Though Iowa City was far removed in a lot of ways from Elizabeth, Pryor signed with Iowa.
"I come from a strong church background and at Iowa we did a lot of prayer and a lot of team unity," Pryor said. "Plus, I needed to get away from Elizabeth to grow up."
He started with the Hawkeyes just four games into his freshman season.
"It seems like football always came easily to me," he said. “That’s why I didn’t redshirt. The coaches told me they couldn’t guarantee me anything, even though I was an All-American. Within a week, I knew the defense.”
He played all four years at Iowa despite a number of injuries, including a dislocated elbow and a finger that he broke when he got it caught in the facemask of another former All-USA player, Rod Woodson, who was playing tailback for Purdue at the time.
After being cut by the New York Giants in 1989, he coached football at Elizabeth. When his father came down with kidney disease, Pryor learned enough assisting his father that today Pryor is the chief biomedic for Loganville (Ga.) Dialysis.
Football is still part of his life because he coaches the Archer Tigers’ 10-year-old team and because one of his four sons, Richard Jr., is a three-star recruit who plays center at Grayson (Loganville).
Ironically, the reason Richard Jr., wound up at Grayson had little to do with football.
"I just tried to be a dad,” Pryor said. "I didn't try to make my kids play sports. He was more a student than I was. He’s got a 3.98 (grade-point average) and we like the engineering program at Grayson."