Look at the way Jeremy Pruitt coaches, how his players play, and the places he’s been, and you’d he has been coaching in college football since graduating from West Alabama in 1999. Then take a look at his resume, and realize that’s not even close to true. As recently as eight years ago, the Florida State defensive coordinator and Nick Saban protege was an assistant in the Alabama high school ranks.

“When I decided that I wanted to be a football coach, I didn’t sit there and say I wanted to be a winner of the Broyles Award or a finalist for the Broyles Award,” Pruitt told AL.com. “I wanted to be a high school football coach, and that’s what I was.”

After playing for his father at Plainview (Ala.) High School, Pruitt played at Middle Tennessee and Alabama, where he played for Gene Stallings in 1995-96 and spent the 1997 season as a student assistant for the Tide. He then moved to West Alabama, where he coached defensive backs before graduating in 1999. After that, it was to the high school ranks, coaching for his father, Dale, at Plainview. He then spent three seasons at Fort Payne until a job came open at powerhouse Hoover High School, which Pruitt pursued the way he now chases a recruit.

“He kept on and on with his persistence,” Hoover head coach Rush Propst said. “Eventually he just comes to my house one day, beats on the door and tells my wife that he was trying to get in touch with me. He sat there for a long time, just waiting for me to come home.”

He got the job, and worked his way to defensive coordinator until word got out that Saban was looking for a director of player development for his new Alabama staff. Pruitt got that job, too, and by 2010 he was the Tide’s defensive backs coach, the third member of Alabama’s vaunted defensive brain trust behind Saban and Kirby Smart. 

“When Kirby was talking on the headsets most of his conversations were with Jeremy,” Propst said. “Jeremy was Kirby and coach Saban’s eyes in the sky.”

After Mark Stoops left Florida State for Kentucky, another former assistant, Jimbo Fisher, reached back into the Saban coaching tree to find his replacement. Thirteen games later, Florida State ranks first nationally in scoring defense, third in total defense, first in pass efficiency defense and second in yards per play. In two weeks, he’ll be one win away from a national championship.

Not bad for a self-proclaimed high school football coach.

“The biggest thing about Jeremy is he has no time clock, there is no overtime, there is no, ‘Hurry up I’ve gotta get out of the office for this,'” said his father, Dale Pruitt. “It could be 2 o’clock in the morning or whatever. That’s the big thing that has helped him.”

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