After suffering a devastating leg injury on the first play of a fall scrimmage last year, Iona Pritchard is slowly making his presence felt.
“Right now I feel like I’m at about 70 to 80 percent and feel like I’ve got a lot more left,” Prichard said. “I’m excited because I feel like I have a lot more to recover from, so I would say I’m around there at 70 to 80 percent.”
Although he’s not 100 percent, Pritchard doesn’t care. He would like to go out and hit some linebacker and is itching to go right now.
“I want to go out there and get some contact right now,” Pritchard said. “I keep begging Coach to let me in but he keeps holding his ground. It’s only been two days so we’ll see if he gives in, but I want to get in there and do some stuff like that.”
“I love that guy because he’s a big, physical body and is someone who plays physical,” said Adam Hine. “He can run and catch and when he gets going, look out. I love having him in the backfield. He’s not 100 percent yet but, you know, he’ll contribute big time.”
For a finesse back like Hine, having a physical player like Pritchard blocking for him gives him an added boost.
“Having him lining up in front of me or with me in the backfield makes a big difference confidence-wise,” Hine said. “It makes things even better, especially with him because you can get along with him. He just goes hard and he makes me want to go hard.”
Pritchard actually wasn’t expected to be out on the field this soon. In fact, he was listed as someone that would be held out of spring practice.
“I’ve just been trying and really wanted to be back out here with the team because I miss that team atmosphere,” said Pritchard with a smile. “Just being back out on the field with my teammates, the feeling in the air, the hitting guys, the camaraderie and the feeling you miss after being hurt.”
Pritchard’s unexpected return to the field might be a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. While he might not have known this himself, Pritchard’s testing of the waters may have led to this being the case.
“You know, now that I look back at it, I think something like that might have happened,” Pritchard said with a laugh in his voice. “They were all talking about, ‘Yeah, we’ve got to wait for you to get cleared for spring ball.’ Then [head trainer] Kevin [Morris] kept giving me little hints like, ‘Yeah, just be ready for Monday.’ I kind of took that as, ‘Yeah, okay, I’ll be ready… let’s go!’ I was thinking, ‘Okay, I’m not going to ask any questions. If they let me suit up, I’m just going out there,’ and that’s what happened. I suited up, came out and did it!”
So the BYU coaches didn’t know the situation?
“I don’t even know what was going on,” said Pritchard with a smile. “I just put my helmet on, came out, got taped up and got super excited. Nobody said nothing, so I said nothing. I was just running out here doing what I could.
“The coaches never really said anything. They kind of just told me to feel it out and make sure I don’t do anything dumb. Our training crew is top of the line and Kevin is a stud and does a great job with us. He told me to be ready on Monday, so I came ready on Monday! I did everything in practice but team [scrimmage].”
“I think he’s done really well and he’s worked hard in the offseason,” said Kevin Morris. “He’s come in and done his rehab well and is really motivated. I think he’ll be ready in fall to go full blow, but just not 100 percent yet to put him in a scrimmage situation.”
Even in the team scrimmaging, Pritchard was thinking he might get a chance to go in for some contact.
“In team, I was thinking, ‘What’s going on? Why am I not going in?’ Coach told me he didn’t want me going in and tripping over someone or stepping on someone’s leg and reinjuring myself.”
Pritchard might not be fully healed, and the fact that he has no vertical jump is evident of that, but during skeli drills he’s compensated for his lack of leaping abilities.
On one specific play, Pritchard ran out of the backfield and a linebacker followed in pursuit. Nelson threw the ball high to him, and being that Pritchard can’t jump at this time, he faded back and tipped the ball over a cutting linebacker making an attempt on the interception. Pritchard then snatched the ball in Willie Mays-like fashion and ran all the way down the sidelines to the sounds of his cheering teammates.
“That one was weird because I went to jump off my leg because the ball was a little bit high,” Pritchard recalled with a smile. “I tried to jump off my foot but didn’t get much air, so I tipped the ball over and caught it with my other hand. It was a lucky catch but I caught it. The way I feel is if you touch the ball, you can catch it, and that’s how I count my drops.”
The last obstacle in overcoming a broken leg is being able to jump off the leg. This is the natural progression of the healing process and the last hurdle Pritchard is facing.
“I still can’t really jump,” he said with a laugh. “I have a one-inch vertical right now. I don’t really know, but I just can’t really jump off that leg right now. I’m just rehabbing it and it does get sore and stiff after practice. I just ice it after every practice, but that’s what they said would happen, and that the jumping and hopping would be the last thing to come back.”
“Yeah, [Monday] he caught that long pass and looked good, you know,” Morris said. “He’s not able to jump like he was, yet, and we’re working on that. I was happy to see that and coaches were too, so that’s good.”
So although Pritchard is ready to hit someone right now and has tested the waters, when will he be able to go all out at 100 percent?
“Well, I’m ready to go right now and go hit someone, but my leg, you know,” he said. “I just try and take it slow and do what they say and push when I can. I just try and be patient and see what the Lord has in store.
“I am excited to get back and get going though because we now have Paul Lasike back there and he’s got some serious talent. We’ve got Adam Hine and we’ve got some guys back there and Juice [Joshua Quezada] and Michael [Alisa].
“I will say this, our backfield has lot of serious potential. We have a lot of guys that can do a lot of good things, and [it] is a backfield that is diverse with a lot of potential. I think all you can expect is a lot of good things out of the running backs.”
Iona Pritchard and his younger brother Baker Pritchard – who just received his mission call to Hawaii and will enter the MTC on March 28 – were pallbearers for former Bingham High School teammate and adopted brother Talai Livai, who was killed in a car accident in California during the month of December. The two brothers took part in the burial ceremony, and father George Pritchard spoke at the farewell ceremony the night prior to the final rites.