Evan Pryor Feeling Healthy, Happy to Be Back on Football Field After Missing 2022 Season with Torn Patellar Tendon

By Dan Hope on August 5, 2023 at 4:04 pm
Evan Pryor

Tearing the patellar tendon in his left knee last August was hard on Evan Pryor in multiple ways.

From a football standpoint, it ended Pryor’s 2022 season before it ever began after a promising spring in which he positioned himself to play a role as a change-of-pace back with more receiving ability out of the backfield than TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams. Emotionally, it was difficult for Pryor to have to watch from the sidelines or his apartment while his Ohio State teammates played.

“I'm gonna keep it real with y’all, it was hard,” Pryor said Saturday in his first interview session since returning from injury. “Everything I had did that year building up into when I got hurt was huge for me. Growing up, maturing and stuff like that. So it was hard having to stay at home, watch the games, things like that.”

Practically, the injury made it harder for Pryor just to complete day-to-day tasks. His recovery forced him to keep his leg straight for two months, which made it tough for Pryor to get to and from classes and the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and even just to go to the bathroom.

“I don't know if y’all know, but like if I had to go poop or whatever the case is, like the leg had to be straight,” Pryor said. “So it was just tough coming around the Woody, stuff like that, you gotta be on crutches, but that was tough.”

Fortunately, Pryor is feeling no ill effects from the injury now. Nearly one year removed from suffering the injury during last year’s preseason camp, Pryor now feels fully healthy and is back on the field practicing with his Ohio State teammates as they prepare for the 2023 season. And just being able to do that means more to Pryor because of the time he missed.

“It was definitely hard, but it definitely makes you take things like this not for granted,” Pryor said. “Now I'm out there, and everything I do, I'm just going hard. Because I know what it's like to have it taken from you just like that.”

Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford said the Buckeyes have eased Pryor back into action during the first three days of preseason camp because Pryor missed the entire spring while continuing to recover. But Alford likes what he’s seen from Pryor so far, and Pryor doesn’t feel as though he has any limitations after going through a full summer workout program.

“I started to feel 100%, I’d probably say right before summer started,” Pryor said. “I had been talking to all the strength coaches and (physical therapist Adam Stewart) about having a full summer, and I believed that was something I could really do. And I did. I had a full summer of working out, being with the team.

“I've been trusting in (my knee) all summer. That's what we've been doing. Running full speed, sprinting, so that when this time came, it’s nothing, second nature. I'm back to doing what I do.”

Going into his third year as a Buckeye, Pryor has played in only four games and carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards and one touchdown. He redshirted after playing in four games as a true freshman in 2021. Add in the fact that Pryor didn’t play a senior season of high school football in 2020, when his home state of North Carolina canceled its fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s been four years since Pryor has played a full season of competitive football.

Even so, Pryor doesn’t feel rusty.

“I just feel like I'm the freshest guy in the room, basically,” Pryor said. “Honestly I don't even feel (the injury) as taking a toll on me, because I'm back to 100%. I feel better than ever out there. So I feel super fresh. I've been doing everything. I feel springy. I just can't wait to get back out there. I can’t wait for the scrimmage (next Saturday).”

“Everything I do, I'm just going hard. Because I know what it's like to have it taken from you just like that.”– Evan Pryor on his mindset after missing last season

Alford said Pryor did a great job of staying mentally engaged even when he couldn’t be on the field physically.

“When he's in those meetings and he can answer and rip off the questions and answers immediately, that shows he’s stayed engaged,” Alford said. “He's never had a cross eye or cross thing to say, he just keeps coming back saying ‘Give me more.’ So that's just a testament to who he is as a young man. He's very valuable in a lot of different ways.”

Whether that will lead to a significant role for Pryor this year remains to be determined. Henderson, Williams, Chip Trayanum and Dallan Hayden are all back from last season, while Xavier Johnson is also an option to play running back that offers similar receiving ability out of the backfield as Pryor. But Pryor is embracing being a part of what he considers to be the best running back room in the country.

“I'm not gonna turn my head to anyone else. I'm just gonna focus on getting better every day. And that's what all five of us are gonna do,” Pryor said. “We're gonna focus on making ourselves better every day. So just kind of having blinders on. We all continue to carve out a better version of ourselves. When we look up, we’re going to still have the best room in the country.”

Despite his uncertain path to playing time this season, Pryor said he never considered entering the transfer portal because of how his Ohio State teammates have stood by him over the past year.

“I’ve just been really focused on being here for my teammates. They’ve seen the journey I went through since last year and how hard I fought to get back … It wouldn’t sit right with me to do all that and just leave,” Pryor said. “So it’s deeper than just going so you can get playing time, stuff like that. Right now, my mind is just being the best teammate I can and being here for my team.”

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