Homegrown in Wormtown, Pats watchers looked forward to Springfield and Worcester product Ron Brace (by way of Boston College) making a big splash as a highly rated rookie. But while Brace has progressed, it is the unheralded rookie from Kentucky, Myron Pryor, who finds himself keeping the line warm for starters as the Patriots most reliable new substitute. With Jarvis Green about to go under the knife, the spotlight turns to shine more directly on the quiet kid from Louisville.
Pryor is low-slung at six-feet-one, and carries a solid 310 pounds. Belichick has described him as "kind of stocky." Yeah Bill, he's stocky. Pryor's size makes him nearly a matched set with all-league noseguard Wilfork, or it would if the 6-2 Wilfork were anything close to his listed 325. If Vince Wilfork is 325 pounds then I'm an Abercrombie torso model (I'm not). Active for 6 of the Patriots' 7 games so far (all but the opener with the Bills), Pryor has accumulated 9 tackles (5 solo) and a forced fumble -- very solid numbers for a second-string rookie.
This will be Pryor's first taste of a complex run-game like that which the Dolphins present, an attack carried by two of the finer running backs in the league. He also will be challenged by one of the more aggressive offensive lines in the AFC, keyed by the Jakes: center Grove and tackle Long. Grove was specifically brought in to handle the beasts of the east -- Wilfork and Kris Jenkins of the Jets. But it won't be the first time Pryor has had to face down a challenge.
One of the best highlights from the 2008 college season was Pryor's rumbling return of a fumble for a touchdown against Louisville (below). According to his defensive line coach Rick Petri, Pryor's first words at the sideline were "Damn, I'm tired. I'm outta air." Under the circumstances it was a pretty joyful complaint coming from a kid who struggled his whole life with asthma. As a child, he spent hours bound to a mechanical nebulizer. Only recently has he been able to ditch the inhaler, as well.
Myron was a lucky kid: asthma can be tough to handle and it poses a greater threat of adverse health effects - including hospitalization and death - to African Americans than to other demographic groups. Pryor has noted the support of a tight family and his faith in pulling him along on his route to the NFL.
With the departure of Original Patriot Richard Seymour and the injury to Green, we will have a chance to watch Pryor grow in the role. With any luck -- and the tutelage of one of the finest lines in the league -- the "stocky" kid will emerge into a bookend worthy of Wilfork's example.
"310 pounds of glory"