Kevin Prentiss Left His Mark

December 13, 2011

MSU Classics, News, Sports

Kevin Prentiss

Kevin Prentiss, former WR/KR, Mississippi State

Kevin Prentiss is a player that every Bulldog fan remembers. Prentiss only spent two years as a Bulldog, but he still compiled 2,165 total yards and eight touchdowns. He was a part of a Bulldog football team that won the SEC West in the 1998 SEC Championship. He returned a punt 83 yards in the fourth quarter of that game, giving Mississippi State a 4th quarter lead against then #1 Tennessee, who won the National Championship that year. That punt return was voted recently as the second best play in SEC Championship history.

I caught up with Prentiss to ask him about his Bulldog career, the memorable punt return, what he did after he left MSU.

The playmaker arrived at Mississippi State and was expected to make an immediate impact. He didn’t have a great year, but he did stretch the field, averaging over 19 yards a catch.

Prentiss didn’t have the 1997 season that he would have hoped, but the speedster broke out in 1998 with 38 catches and 681 yards. He also had three touchdowns on the season. The Bulldogs made it to the aforementioned SEC Championship. The Bulldogs lost to Tennessee, but Prentiss scored one of the most memorable touchdowns in Mississippi State history. He shared with me what was going through his mind and how he felt about being up for the top play in SEC Championship history.

“I kinda had a feeling I would eventually get one, because the whole game I was getting closer and closer to breaking one — whether it was a punt or kickoff return. Like it was that fourth quarter. I didn’t think I could return it, but I was just hoping to get a good return to set us up to score. Once the play happened, I skipped past the dude on the sideline, and once I got past him I knew I was going to score. It was a big play and a big moment for me,” said Prentiss.

“I had no idea I was up for it. Someone ended up posting the website [http://www.secdigitalnetwork.com/SECSPORTS/SECVideoPoll.aspx] on my [Facebook] page, and the voting and stuff had already begun. So, I wasn’t contacted to let me know I was in the running for it. I was flattered I guess that I was, and then I made it to the final two,” said Prentiss.

Prentiss had a terrific career at Mississippi State, but he played with another Bulldog legend: James “J.J.” Johnson. He gave me his thoughts on why Johnson had such a great career.

“He was actually my roommate when we got up there, and I played against him in Junior College so I knew a little bit about him. We became a lot closer. As far as him [J.J. Johnson] as a player he’s got a hell of a work ethic. I wasn’t surprised by the things he accomplished while he was at State, because he always wanted to work and get better,” said Prentiss.

Prentiss reflected on his career.

“I enjoyed both of my years there but the standout year is the year we won the West and went to SEC Championship and the Cotton Bowl. That’s probably one of my most memorable seasons, because nobody expected us to get that far or do what we did,” said Prentiss.

Prentiss’ Bulldog career was now over, and he had to prepare for a professional career. The explosive receiver was able to get a shot. He made the Dallas Cowboys’ training camp roster in 1999. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the 53-man roster final cut. The Giants gave him a shot in 2000, but they cut him as well. Prentiss doesn’t seem to have any regrets about not making an NFL team.

“I hate that I didn’t make it, but I enjoyed the experience playing with some of the receivers and quarterbacks I did,” said Prentiss.

Prentiss was able to play for the XFL’s Memphis Maniax in 2001. The XFL was an upstart professional league started by WWE owner Vince McMahon. He played five games for the Maniax, totaling 383 yards in those five games. The league folded after one season, but Prentiss appreciated the relationships he built.

“It was football. They had a lot of extra stuff going on, like the cheerleaders and the names on the back–who got the first ball and all that. Other than all the extra stuff, it was real football. I enjoyed it, and I met some people I still stay in contact with. People that played that were in the NFL for years were on the team with me. I met some good people. I wish it was more than that one year,” said Prentiss.

Prentiss didn’t play for a year, then latched on with the Memphis Xplorers of the Arena Football League II. He played for the Xplorers from 2003-2006 and achieved his best pro success.  The former Mississippi State standout enjoyed four stellar seasons in the af2 with the Memphis Xplorers. In his rookie af2 campaign in 2003, Prentiss played in eight games and ranked third in the league in kickoff return average, netting nearly 27 yards per run back (26.9). In 2004, his first full year in the af2, Prentiss was a blur. He led the league with an eye-popping eight kick return TDs and ranked first in kick return average, at nearly 29 yards per return (28.8). He also ranked third in scoring (258 points; 43 total TDs, 35 receiving), third in all-purpose yards (2,858) and third in receiving yards (1,510). Prentiss was nearly as impressive in 2005, returning four kick returns for touchdowns, while again leading the league in yards per return (26.3). He also finished second in the af2 in all-purpose yards (3,104), third in receiving TDs (40) and fourth in scoring (264 points; 44 total TDs). Prentiss’ play in 2005 was a major reason behind Memphis’ success as the Xplorers finished 13-3 in the regular season to claim their first division title. He capped off his exceptional season by propelling the Xplorers to their first ArenaCup Championship. Overall, Prentiss finished his af2 career as the league’s all-time leader in kick return TDs (14). He also ranks among the league’s all-time leaders in receiving and scoring.  His 14 kick returns for touchdowns during that time period was good enough for him to be voted as the top Kick Returner in the league’s history. Prentiss was voted into the af2 Hall of Fame in 2009.

Prentiss didn’t finish his career with the Xplorers. Prentiss played some of 2006 season and the 2007 season with the Las Vegas Gladiators. He scored a record nine receiving touchdowns in one game during that 2007 season. His professional career ended after a broken leg during the 2007 season.  He decided to hang it up rather than face further injury.

“My first year in ’03, I broke my leg in the middle of the season, and I came back and played in ’04, ’05 and part of ’06. I went out to Vegas playing arena ball, and I ended up breaking my leg again. So, that stopped me from playing, because I didn’t want to be out there continuing to break bones and stuff,” said Prentiss.

Prentiss never made a NFL roster, but he still is talked about and spoken of with high regard by most Mississippi State fans. People always mention how the team needs a Kevin Prentiss type of player. He appreciates that people still hold him in such high regard.

“Oh yeah, it definitely does. It lets me know that I left an impression on the State fans when I was there a couple of years for them to be still talking,” said Prentiss.

Prentiss keeps up with his former team and likes what Mullen has going in Starkville.

“I’ve been back two or three times to catch a game. I really haven’t been able to get down there like I wanted to. I’ve been working and other stuff [has been] going on. I keep up with them and follow them. I watch every game that I can. I still root for my Dawgs,” said Prentiss.

“I feel the same way, excited [about] the atmosphere that’s going on up there. I definitely like the offense. I could have played in that offense. He’s getting the program turned back around. They are heading in the right direction. [They] had a disappointing year this year coming off of last year. I think they will be alright,” said Prentiss.

Prentiss, aside from keeping up with the Bulldogs has become a family man, who got married last year.  He now lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Mississippi State will bring in some talented players during the Mullen tenure, but they will always be judged against the playmaking abilities of Kevin Prentiss during his Bulldog career.  He definitely left his mark.

@JeremiahShort26

 

Watch Kevin Prentiss’ 83-yard punt return from the 1998 SEC Championship game here, courtesy of the SEC Digital Network:

http://www.secdigitalnetwork.com/Portals/3/skins/SEC/poll/scripts/jwplayer/player.swf?file=http://dkx0a0zfkkglw.cloudfront.net/media/8dc26509-cda9-4f6c-a4bd-bcd006df5345_ctv-cms-1200-mp4-s3.mp4&autostart=1

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