FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Calvin Pryor plans to keep delivering hard hits in the NFL.
And the New York Jets’ first-round pick isn’t worried about getting flagged or fined for them. He doesn’t intend to change a thing.
The former Louisville safety was known for his aggressive play, something that attracted the Jets and coach Rex Ryan. Pryor, who earned the nickname “Louisville Slugger” in college, was the No. 18 overall pick Thursday night.
“Coach Ryan just said, ‘Just be yourself,'” Pryor said at his introductory news conference Friday. “In college, I had clean hits. I used my shoulder pads and I don’t lead with my helmet. So, if I just continue to do the same thing, I’m pretty sure we won’t have a problem.”
Pryor’s physical style has some comparing him to other hard-hitting safeties such as Tampa Bay’s Dashon Goldson and Indianapolis’ Laron Landry, both of whom have been frequently fined for hits in the NFL.
Ryan called Pryor “an enforcer” shortly after the Jets drafted him, and added that he is the perfect fit for New York’s physical defense. Ryan first became aware of Pryor during the college season when the safety made three eye-popping plays during the first series in a game against Central Florida, including knocking out a running back.
“I don’t really know how to describe it because when you see an impact like that and someone goes down like that, first you wonder, ‘Is he OK?'” Pryor said of the feeling of delivering a hard, clean hit. “That’s the type of person I am. I care for people. But at the same time, football is a physical and a tough game. You have to compete at a very high level and you have to play fearless.”
The 5-foot-11 Pryor, from Port St. Joe, Florida, had seven interceptions, nine forced fumbles and 218 tackles in three seasons at Louisville. Under coach Charlie Strong, who’s now at Texas, the Cardinals ran a defense similar to that which Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman run.
“For the most part,” Pryor said, “it’s the same thing.”
While Pryor’s hitting is the highlight, he insists his cover skills are also more than adequate — something that could come in handy against tight ends and wide receivers trying to make plays across the middle against the Jets.
“I’m very confident in my ability, first and foremost,” Pryor said. “I feel like I have the complete package as a safety. Most people know me as a hard-hitting safety because I had a few hard hits in college. But when you watch my film, you see that playmaking ability that jumps out at you, a guy that’s flying around and has passion for the game.”
Pryor grew up a fan of former All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins, also known for his hard hits and knack for making plays during a 16-year NFL career. The rookie realizes that a physical approach can help set the tone of a game.
“Most receivers and quarterbacks, guys on the offensive side of the ball, they don’t like being hit like that,” Pryor said. “So, when you see someone have an impact like that and can be very physical on defense and knock guys out, it can become an intimidation factor.”
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