Byron Pringle has something he wants to show you. It’s a video of his three-year old son dressed up in some of his old Kansas State football gear. The clip is on his personal cell phone, not his work-issued one, and he fumbles between the two for a minute until the proper moving images flash across the screen.
Once the video begins to play, Pringle smiles from ear to ear. He has two young children now, and his oldest is ready to start playing sports. The plan is to start him out with soccer “to get his footwork down” and then give touch football a try.
The conversation eventually turns to his job with the Kansas City Chiefs, how he is preparing for his second year as a receiver in the NFL and the unorthodox journey he traveled to this point.
He has grown up. His life is good. And it might get even better soon.
Pringle spent his rookie season with the Chiefs on injured reserve, collecting a paycheck while his body healed and learning the nuances of Andy Reid’s offense. Now that he’s healthy, he appears ready to not only join the Chiefs’ active roster but catch meaningful passes from Patrick Mahomes.
He’s already thinking about what it feel like to play in his first NFL game, and contribute in any way.
“I’m going to have a smile as big from here to Nebraska,” Pringle said Friday at a Catbacker event in Olathe. “I’m going to be cheesing so hard. Even when I made a catch, I’d be cheesing because playing in the NFL, it’s winning against the odds, you know? Even if it’s a block, if I make a key block, that’s me winning. So I’m going to smile from here to Nebraska.”
Pringle says he smiles a lot these days. It’s easy to understand why.
A few years ago, a NFL career and a promising future in Kansas City seemed like a pipedream. For a while, his odds of playing college football seemed slim. That’s because Pringle has a criminal past.
When he was 16, he was arrested for participating in a series of crimes in his hometown of Tampa. The charges included burglary, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and grant theft. But after serving four years probation, working 100 hours of community service and sitting out his junior season of high school football, he was able to return to the field.
Pringle, now 25, downplays his role in those crimes by saying “I was there, but I didn’t do anything.” That’s the only disclaimer he wants to associate with his past. He is proud of the journey he took from Butler County Community College to K-State and eventually the NFL, and hopes to inspire other young athletes who encounter trouble to turn their lives around.
“If anybody has a bad childhood or juvenile record and you’re trying to pursue anything, I feel like you can do it,” Pringle said. “Just don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t. There’s going to be negativity that comes behind it all the way.
“Even when I was in high school, they pointed at me like I did it just because I was the athlete. But I learned if you’re the main topic of a problem, they’re going to blow it up even more than it is ... Even my own family doubted, you know? I just put my mind to it that if you’re not with me, oh well, I’m not stopping. If I stop now, then I become a quitter.
“I’m coming to win. That’s my key word — win. That’s what I go by ... It’s not about winning a game. It’s about winning against everything that was against me. I just work with that positive energy and positive mindset.”
One thing that helped Pringle along the way was focusing on academics. Sure, he dreamed of playing big-time college football and making it in the NFL, but his top priority was obtaining a college degree and finding a steady way to support his family.
That’s why walking across the stage in a cap and gown was one of his proudest moments. Once he obtained his degree, he decided he was ready to turn pro even though he had a year of eligibility remaining with the Wildcats.
K-State could have used him as a senior, but he did a lot during his two years there, catching 69 passes for 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns. His performance against Oklahoma State as a junior (280 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns) will go down as one of the best in school history.
He went undrafted, but that only pushed him to work harder.
“Once I got in, I knew I was going in 110 percent and I’m going to give it my all,” Pringle said. “I’m going to work out hard and do things that a draft pick wouldn’t do. I really wasn’t worried about who was ahead of me or who was in back of me. I knew I was coming here for one reason only and that’s to win. I want to win games, but also win against everything that was against me. That’s my whole mentality.”
K-State fans gave Pringle a big welcome when he made a surprise visit to their Catbacker event in Olathe on Friday. New coach Chris Klieman pulled him aside for 15 minutes and asked for a favor.
“We’re trying to get him to come back, while he’s close enough, over to Manhattan and visit with the guys,” Klieman said, “because I know (he has) so much to give to some of our guys who are in our program. But I’m so proud of him and how he’s made it with the Chiefs.”
Pringle will spend the next few months trying to earn a spot on the team’s opening day roster. Things are going well so far. He has a good relationship with Mahomes and praises his ability to make big plays out of nothing.
Having the opportunity to play alongside a quarterback with that much talent is reason for Pringle to smile.
He’s come a long way since high school and even college, but he’s still pushing for more.
“I’m ready to show the fans of Kansas City and Kansas State how hard I’ve worked,” Pringle said, “and that I belong in this position.”