CONYERS — Makari Pruitt’s level of talent was never in question while the Salem standout was making his rounds on the recruiting trail.
Receiving attention from colleges on virtually all levels, the 5-foot-7 slot receiver eventually found peace with his decision to sign with Mount Union, a Division III powerhouse in Ohio that has won 13 national championships since 1993.
Pruitt signed his National Letter of Intent on National Signing Day last February, but a change of heart soon consumed the senior.
“There were some decisions, financially, that me and my family had to make,” Pruitt said. “There was nothing wrong with Mount Union. That’s where I really wanted to go. But things happen and I had to find a second option.”
Going up to Ohio, my main thing was like, ‘dang, is my mom going to come up and see me play?’ They wouldn’t be able to come up and see me play when I wanted them to. So when I told them what I was thinking, they were excited about that.”
Once March rolled around, two schools piqued Pruitt’s interest level the most — Middle Tennessee State and Georgia State, two D-1 programs.
“I was actually going to go to Middle Tennessee State,” Pruitt said. “But some things happened with that. Even through the whole recruiting process, I had kept a good relationship with Coach (Josh) Stepp at Georgia State. I was telling him where I was thinking about committing and he was coming to the school to see other people. But we were always still talking.”
Still not fully sold on if Georgia State would be the best fit for him, things began to fall into place with the departure of Panthers’ starting slot receiver Penny Hart, who declared for the 2019 NFL draft.
“Coach Stepp told me that if I needed anything, call him,” Pruitt said. “Georgia State’s starting slot receiver, Penny Hart, who just got picked up by the Colts, declared for the draft after signing day. So when things went down with Mount Union, I called Coach Stepp asked asked him since Hart was leaving, what was going to happen? A few days went by and he called me and told me that they have a spot for me if I still want to come.”
With a spot available and Pruitt needing to make a final decision, he took to Twitter earlier this month to announce his decision to join the Panthers and begin his college career in Atlanta, just 30 minutes west of his home town in Conyers.
“I love the city,” Pruitt said. “The location with where the school is at is the one thing that I really loved about it. They just built new meeting rooms, coaches rooms and all of that. They’re building athletic dorms right across from the stadium and they’re just putting a lot of money into the program.”
On top of Georgia State’s proximity to his home, Hart reaching the NFL following a great career with the Panthers has Pruitt loving the possibility of following in his footsteps.
“Even before all of the signing day stuff went down, when I went to Georgia State on their junior day visit, they told me to watch Penny,” Pruitt said. “I saw that he was a little guy and was starting. So when he got picked up, I really have a lot of hope. He’s about my size, plays my spot and is now in the NFL. I’m thinking to myself, I can be next.”
With Hart out of the picture, Pruitt said he hopes to compete for playing time as a freshman and pick up where he left off at Salem as the Seminoles’ do-it-all slot receiver.
Pruitt caught 104 passes over the course of his junior and senior seasons for 1,190 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“Right now, the only player with a starting spot was Penny’s backup,” Pruitt said. “When I was talking to the coaches, they were basically telling me that the spot is up for grabs. There’s nothing guaranteed. They told me that If I come in and do what I’m supposed to, I’ll have a chance to play. It’s just about going into camp with the right mindset so that I can get on the field.”
Pruitt will report to Georgia State’s football training camp on August 1.
“I’ve been ready for camp since we lost the playoff game,” Pruitt said. “I just want to get back on the field. I’m at the gym every day. I’m also out on the field with coach (Michael) Johnson running routes and come drills. I’ve put on a few pounds and trying to get ready for camp.”