When Georgia’s Mikey Henderson made the game-winning touchdown catch in overtime against Alabama in 2007 and the Crimson Tide ruined the Bulldogs’ blackout in 2008, Jeremy Pruitt was on Nick Saban’s staff but not as an on-field assistant.
Pruitt quickly climbed the coaching ladder, from being hired as Alabama’s director of player development to Georgia’s defensive coordinator in a matter of seven years.
“It does not surprise me that he’s moved this fast,” 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’s 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.
“The kids are going to like him,” Propst said. “They are going to play hard for him. He’s going to coach them hard, now. He’s not a players’ coach, now. Sometimes when you get that label as a players’ coach it means that you’re soft. He’s 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’s exactly what I told Mark.”
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’s degree.
“I almost didn’t 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,” Propst said. “In the interview, he sold himself.”
Propst hired him to be his secondary coach and three months later he was special teams coordinator.
“We ended up blocking two punts in the championship game to win a ballgame that I’m not sure we were favored in at that time,” 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’s young secondary was hurt by big pass plays this season.
“I can’t take my hat off enough to Coach Pruitt,” Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner told reporters at the BCS title game.
“He got my attention when he first came back in January just with the kind of heart he has. He’s a genuine heart person. He said something to me that I’ll never forget in my life. He said, ‘You don’t get what you want, you get what you earn.’ I never heard that said before. He got my attention from Day One.”
Now, it’s Pruitt’s turn to get the attention of his new players at Georgia.