Military Appreciation Day Special Feature
By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For most people, life doesn't follow a normal
path or proceed according to a pre-determined plan.
Things often transpire in a manner that can test the mettle of a person and his
or her ability to handle adversity. It's when things do not go according plan
that you learn a lot about an individual's attitude, character and outlook on
Senior defensive back Devin Pryor is in his final few weeks as a playing member
of the Penn State Football program, an opportunity he has not taken for granted
when he earned a second chance to finish what he had started back in 2010.
But, before you can appreciate the meaning of Pryor's senior season as a
Nittany Lion, you need to understand how he got to the position that he is in.
Born on Norton Air Force Base near San Bernardino, California, Pryor's
childhood is unique to most student-athletes. His parents - Mary Hartley and
Maurice Pryor - were both members of the United States Air Force during Pryor's
The Pryor family's residences included Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho
and Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs while Devin was a child. When
his mother was stationed in Alconbury, England, Pryor was just 10-years old.
A fifth-grader at the time, Pryor spent much of his childhood getting to know a
group of friends before moving to another location.
"It really helped with my social skills," Pryor said. "When you are moving that
much as a kid, you have to be out-going to meet new friends. You are going to
make good friends, but you are going to be distanced from them when you move.
So it helped me be outgoing and social."
By no means was it easy on him, but Pryor learned to adapt to change, and in
the long run, he thinks it helped him grow.
"The process really taught me how to take care of myself and my young sister at
the time," Pryor said.
Pryor, who has two younger sisters, Destiny and Sienna, spent the next seven
years of his life in the small school system of Alconbury. With only 300
students in the high school, Pryor never had any intentions of playing a sport
in college. Sure, he was encouraged to pursue a football career at a college in
the United States by his coach in Alconbury, but it was off of Pryor's radar.
He was accepted into the Air Force Academy, Texas A&M and Penn State after
applying to schools as he worked towards becoming an engineer. With extended
family in mind, Pryor made the decision to attend Penn State.
"It was a unique choice to come here," Pryor said. "My dad has always been a
Penn State fan. He's from Philadelphia. My mom is from Long Island."
The family component made the choice to become a Penn State student
easier, but he walked on to the campus of more than 40,000 students on the
first time ever on the day he arrived for school. Having attended a high school
with 300 students, Pryor's first few weeks on campus were an adjustment to say
"The academics at Penn State really stood out to me," said Pryor. "At the time,
I had wanted to be an engineer. Penn State has one of the top engineering
programs. I early enrolled to do a summer engineering program."
Like most Penn State freshmen, Pryor made a point to order season tickets to
the home football games in Beaver Stadium prior to the 2010 season. He attended
three games as a fan before making a decision to try out for the team in late
"My coaches in England always felt like I could play, but I had self doubt
because I had never played in the States and had no idea what the competition was
like," Pryor said.
Pryor successfully attracted the attention of the coaching staff, and he was
one of four players the group called back.
"The next thing I know, I'm on the team," Pryor said. "Here I am standing next
to Evan Royster and the rest of these guys who I had just been watching play
from the stands. It was so surreal."
But things took a different path for Pryor during the latter stages of 2010.
"I wasn't nearly as serious about (playing) during my freshman year, so I was
released," Pryor said.
Back to normal life as a college student in 2011, Pryor's career on the
gridiron was not over quite yet.
During former head coach Bill O'Brien's first season in 2012, the coaching
staff added Pryor back to the roster. With a second chance, Pryor was not going
to be denied the opportunity to contribute to the team.
"It means a lot to not only me, but to be able to show the kids back in the
tiny town in England that no dream is too big and no obstacle is too large,"
During his second stint with the football program, Pryor knew how much the
opportunity meant in the grand scheme of his journey.
"Coming out of such a small school, a lot of us over there just hoped to go to
college, but the exposure is not nearly the same in terms of athletics," Pryor
said. "This process made me realize that when you are put in a tough position,
you can make the most of it with a good attitude. Walking on here, I've
definitely had my struggles and my positives."
Without question, the highpoint of his college career came in August of 2013,
just one week into training camp. As dependent of a service member, Pryor
utilized the GI Bill for a portion of college. But the funds from the GI Bill
had just run out. He called his mother to inform her of the news. From there
the two needed to set up a loan to cover the expenses of his final two years as
a college student.
But things took a different path just two days after the loan had been
Pryor received a phone call that Coach O'Brien needed to see him in his office.
"I never thought was going to be a good thing," Pryor joked.
O'Brien told Pryor that he and the coaching staff felt as though Pryor deserved
a scholarship for the 2013 season because of his efforts and dedication to the
football program. After walking out of the office, he immediately called his
mom to tell her to cancel the loan. Thinking the worst, Pryor's mom thought he
had been released again from the team.
But, the exciting news Pryor revealed brought his mom to tears.
Pryor graduated this past August with a degree in energy business and finance,
and he is now working towards a second degree, in economics. Walking across the
stage with pride, he became a first generation Pryor to earn a college degree.
"It's so humbling to have that degree," he said.
When his time at Penn State is complete, Pryor would like to pursue a career in
the financial field of the automobile industry. He has also looked at the
military, a profession near and dear to his heart.
"We really don't give the troops enough credit for what they do, so this Military
Appreciation Day game is a great opportunity for us to show what they mean to
us," Pryor said. "Just like in football, there is a lot more that goes on
behind the scenes with the troops that they don't get credit for."
The military appreciation recognition today holds a special meaning to Pryor.
"Just seeing how hard my mom worked every day, and it often went unrecognized,"
said Pryor. "Any chance we get to say thank you is huge. It may not seem like a
lot to the Penn State fans, but the men and women really appreciate it. My mom
Pryor's journey to Happy Valley spanned the globe, but his hard work and
commitment to the football program earned the right to become a scholarship
player. His background is far from a normal path to the highest level of
college athletics, but Pryor's drive never wavered.
"You just have to make the most of the hand you are dealt," Pryor said.
Perseverance guided Pryor to the position he is in today, and his time at Penn
State will stick with him forever.
"I'm just going to remember the sense of family that is within Penn State and
this football program," Pryor said. "And it never mattered how productive you
were on the game field. The fans and supporters were there no matter what. The
support you feel rivals your own family to be honest with you."