When Georgia‚Äôs Mikey Henderson made the game-winning touchdown catch in overtime against Alabama in 2007 and the Crimson Tide ruined the Bulldogs‚Äô blackout in 2008, Jeremy Pruitt was on Nick Saban‚Äôs staff but not as an on-field assistant.
Pruitt quickly climbed the coaching ladder, from being hired as Alabama‚Äôs director of player development to Georgia‚Äôs defensive coordinator in a matter of seven years.
‚ÄúIt does not surprise me that he‚Äôs moved this fast,‚Äù said Rush Propst, who Pruitt coached under from 2004-06 at Hoover (Ala.) High School before he took the administrative job at Alabama under Saban.
Pruitt was promoted to secondary coach at Alabama in January 2010 and held the position for three seasons until Jimbo Fisher hired him at Florida State in December 2012 as defensive coordinator for what turned out to be a run to the national championship.
Propst, now head coach at Colquitt County, said Pruitt was Alabama‚Äôs best recruiter.
Propst told Georgia coach Mark Richt on Tuesday before the hire was complete that Pruitt cares about people and has tremendous relationship with his players.
‚ÄúThe kids are going to like him,‚Äù Propst said. ‚ÄúThey are going to play hard for him. He‚Äôs going to coach them hard, now. He‚Äôs not a players‚Äô coach, now. Sometimes when you get that label as a players‚Äô coach it means that you‚Äôre soft. He‚Äôs not soft, in no stretch of the imagination. He will build relationships on that team wherever he recruits and for the University of Georgia and that will be a huge attribute for him and that university and that‚Äôs exactly what I told Mark.‚Äù
Pruitt played defensive back for Alabama and started his coaching career as a student assistant with the Crimson Tide in 1997. He coached under his father, Dale, at Plainview High and later Fort Payne High in Alabama from 1998-2003, except for the 1999 season when he was defensive backs coach at West Alabama, where he earned his bachelor‚Äôs degree.
‚ÄúI almost didn‚Äôt hire him because I had somebody else in mind, but Jeremy continued to bug me, bug me, bug me and call me all the time until finally we gave him an interview,‚Äù Propst said. ‚ÄúIn the interview, he sold himself.‚Äù
Propst hired him to be his secondary coach and three months later he was special teams coordinator.
‚ÄúWe ended up blocking two punts in the championship game to win a ballgame that I‚Äôm not sure we were favored in at that time,‚Äù he said.
In Years Two and Three at Hoover, Pruitt was the defensive coordinator on teams that won the state title and then was the runner-up.
After six years at Alabama, Pruitt made a smooth transition to Florida State, where the Seminoles led the nation in scoring defense and were second in passing yards allowed.
Georgia‚Äôs young secondary was hurt by big pass plays this season.
‚ÄúI can‚Äôt take my hat off enough to Coach Pruitt,‚Äù Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner told reporters at the BCS title game.
‚ÄúHe got my attention when he first came back in January just with the kind of heart he has. He‚Äôs a genuine heart person. He said something to me that I‚Äôll never forget in my life. He said, ‚ÄòYou don‚Äôt get what you want, you get what you earn.‚Äô I never heard that said before. He got my attention from Day One.‚Äù
Now, it‚Äôs Pruitt‚Äôs turn to get the attention of his new players at Georgia.