Cincinnati’s associate head coach Robert Prunty has been named the Recruiter of the Year in his conference in each of the last four seasons by Scout.com.
“Robert Prunty is one of the best recruiters in the country,” said head coach Tommy Tuberville. “If you look at our (signing day) list this year, he probably had something to do with half of them. He has that gift.
“He’s outgoing – he’s never met a stranger. That’s what it’s all about. You have to be able to turn it on in any environment and he does a great job in the home and with parents. He understands the need for recruiting 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There’s not a day that goes by where he doesn’t do something in recruiting.”
But the key to Prunty’s recruiting pitch isn’t his mouth, it’s his ears.
“Listening,” Robert answered when I asked what makes him a good recruiter. “I was reading an article about a month ago about psychiatrists and how much money they were making, and one of them said, ‘Basically I just sit there and listen to people’s problems.’ I think when you’re dealing with teenagers and young men; they just want somebody to listen to them. They’re so used to people telling them everything that I form a bond by simply listening to them.
“My mother had 10 kids and my father died when I was 10 years old. I’ll never forget when I was about 15, my mother said, ‘You know what? I’m just going to listen to what you have to say.’ So that came from my mother.”
Prunty’s ability to bond with young people was honed during his eight years as head coach at Hargrave Military Academy where many of his players originally signed with Division 1 schools before needing a year of prep school to improve their grades.
The job required Robert to be more than a football coach.
“Educator…father…preacher…mentor…psychiatrist,” said Prunty. “Remember, everybody that came there had a problem because they didn’t qualify. So they were all sad and depressed and we had to try to build them back up.”
At Hargrave, Prunty coached 27 players that made it to the NFL including Pro Bowlers Ahmad Brooks, Brandon Flowers, and Jay Ratliff.
“At one point, they did an article where the players who had played at Hargrave were making close to $400 million dollars,” said Prunty.
Tuberville got to know Robert while recruiting players at Hargrave and offered him an opportunity at the college level when he became the head coach at Texas Tech in 2010.
“There were a lot of big-shot coaches that had a chance to hire him, but he was from a prep school and they didn’t give him a chance,” said Tuberville.
“For Coach Tuberville to give me a job when I was at Hargrave – I’m just thankful to God,” said Prunty. “My brother and sister go to factories 12 hours a day and I get to coach football. I grew up in an industrial area where people worked hard, so I’m driven by the fact that I get to coach football and I love it.”
Prunty’s loyalty to Tuberville is a key reason why he has turned down some lucrative opportunities.
“I just had an offer last week from an NFL team as a defensive assistant and I had about five offers before that, but Coach Tuberville gave me a shot when nobody else would and I like Cincinnati,” Robert told me. “I like the people here, my wife likes it here, my kids go to a great school, and that has a lot to do with it. I’m just thankful.”
“He’s been offered all over the country but he’s been loyal and he wants to stay,” said Tuberville.
In addition to his recruiting ability, Prunty is the Bearcats co-defensive coordinator and coaches the defensive line.
“Coach Prunty is a helluva guy,” said junior Silverberry Mouhon. “He demands so much of us because he brings energy every day at practice. You never see a day where he’s down or moping.”
“He’s tough on them,” said Tuberville. “He’s hard-nosed, he’s disciplined – he’s one of those guys that understands how to get it out of guys that maybe did not know how to give 100% effort.
“He was a good coach when we got him, but he’s a much better coach now because works at it like he does in recruiting. He wants to learn, he wants to get better, he doesn’t stay the same, he studies, he goes to other colleges, he goes to high schools, he spends a lot of time with the Bengals, and he’s as good of a coach as he is a recruiter. I’m just excited about him being on our staff and being a good friend.”
“Everybody has respect for him – from the defensive line to the offense,” said Mouhon. “He works hard for us and that makes you want to work that much harder for him because he gives us his all.”
“Growing up with no father and my momma raising 10 kids, all I know is hard work,” said Prunty. “That’s all I know. There’s no substitute.”
That work ethic helps explain his four year streak of being named Recruiter of the Year in the Big 12 (twice), Big East, and AAC.
What does that recognition mean to Prunty?
“It means that I have to try to win it again this year,” he said.
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