Tyler Prater, a standout lineman for the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets, will be continuing his football career at the University of Pikeville this fall.
“I’ve always dreamed of it, everybody dreams of it. Everybody wants to go on and continue playing at the collegiate level,” Prater said. “I lost my papaw the week of the Somerset game, and this is something that meant a lot between me and him. So, yeah, knowing I’ll be playing college football means a lot.
Prater, a graduating senior who is also a varsity starter on the MHS baseball and basketball teams, signed with the Bears back on Feb. 5. He plans to enroll in summer classes at UPike in July and major in Education. He’s the son of Jimmie Carol and Mike Prater.
“I want to thank God and my family for all of their support and the community for their support. They might not know it, but we do hear them in the stands and it means a lot,” Prater added.
He starred on both offense at center and at defensive end for Middlesboro. He made the All-SEKC team in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was named the SEKC Defensive Lineman of the Year the last two seasons. In addition he was an honorable mention on the Kentucky All-State team as an offensive lineman following his junior season and a second team All-Stater at defensive end as a senior.
In addition to his athletic ability, Prater will be bringing strong leadership skills to the Bears. Middlesboro fielded a team made up mostly of sophomores in 2012 with Prater as one of the few upperclassmen on the team. He emerged as a captain as that team grew to give the three best teams in their region tough games late in the year despite a 4-7 record. They turned it around last year and put together a 9-3 mark that included the school’s first district championship since 2006.
“I like being a leader. My dad always taught me not to follow, be your own person and if you see someone fall try to help them out,” Prater added. “I felt like my teammates just fell in line with what I was trying to do and I believe that’s what led us to that 9-3 record. I wish we could have went on.”
“From the time Tyler was a freshman we knew he was going to be special,” said Randy Frazier, who was Prater’s head coach all four years he was at MHS. “We started him as a freshman. He played hurt his junior year and came back as a senior and played extremely well. Everybody had to know where he was and a lot of the time they had to double-team him.
“The things he did on and off the field were very special. If you could mold a player that you wanted to coach, then he’s one of the first ones that come to mind. I’d like to have a whole team of Tyler Praters out there.”
At 6-foot-2 and around 270-pounds, Prater has the size and athleticism to play offense or defense at the next level.
“I’ve talked to Al (Holland, UPike’s offensive coordinator) and my cousin Trevor (Hoskins) who’s a GA up there and they seem to want me on the offensive side. Brian Williams wants me on the defensive side, too, so it’s kind of back and forth,” Prater said. “I’t’ll probably be offense where I’ll play at either center or guard.”
Hoskins, who set all of UPike’s passing records, and Williams, the Bears’ defensive coordinator, were also stand out players at Middlesboro High School. Head coach Dudley Hilton had a long tenure at Bell County High School before going to UPike and has continued to pull a lot of players from this area to Pikeville.
Prater’s baseball teammate Lucas Crawford will be paying that sport at UPike and Prater said knowing there will be family and friends at the school played a role in his choosing to go there from among several options. He also liked the surroundings.
“I really like the campus and the surroundings are down to earth. I like it in Middlesboro and small towns in general and Pikeville is a lot like that,” he said.
UPike, which competes in the NAIA, opens their season at Bluefield, Va., on Aug. 28. They’ll play at Union College in the regular season finale on Nov. 15.