Prater’s Natchez roots extend to USC

Published 12:01 am Thursday, September 3, 2009

NATCHEZ — When Sonya Prater heard her son Kyle announce which school he plans to attend for college, she said a feeling of relief came over her.

Relief is probably natural for most parents when their children finally decide to make their college choice. For Sonya, however, there was more to it than her son picking a place to attend class every day.

Kyle, a senior wide receiver for Proviso West High School in Hillside, Ill., is a highly touted college football prospect. He is ranked as the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation by and the No. 2 wide receiver by

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He is the son of Johnny and Sonya Prater, formerly of Natchez, and the grandson of current Natchez residents Johnny and Mary Prater and Annie Holliday-Ross.

Because of his athletic abilities, Kyle could have attended almost any college in the country that has a football team. On Wednesday, he announced that his choice was the University of Southern California.

Sonya, a Natchez native, said the recruitment process has been hectic for her, and she’s glad it’s come to an end.

“The reason it’s a relief for me is, when this process started, Kyle had 43 scholarship offers,” Sonya said. “Throughout the process, you get emotionally involved with all the people you meet at different schools.

“When you can only select one of the schools that are recruiting you, it’s hard to tell the others no.”

Sonya said that her son’s choice of playing for the Trojans mainly came down to things outside of the athletic considerations.

“First and foremost, he liked the academics (at USC),” Sonya said. “I always tell my son, if you didn’t have your football abilities, how do you feel about the environment (of the school)?

“For Kyle, the environment at USC was awesome, as was everything else, including the tradition.”

Mary Prater, Kyle’s grandmother, also said academics were the main thing she wanted her grandson to consider. When Kyle made his announcement, Mary made sure to take a trip to Illinois to enjoy the moment.

“It was very important (for me to be there),” Mary said. “I took vacation time off of work to be able to support him.”

For Sonya, playing for Trojans head coach Pete Carroll was a positive in Kyle’s choosing USC.

“I haven’t met Coach Carroll personally, but we spoke on the phone,” Sonya said. “They have wonderful people at USC that answer all your questions. Coach Carroll said Kyle is expected to come in and work hard, which he’s done all his life.”

The life of a high-profile recruit is often filled with glamour when many schools are vying for your athletic services. Sonya said she taught her son to show humility in the face of such a big spotlight.

“We never planned any of this,” Sonya said. “Everything just fell into place. We always taught him to be humble regardless of a spotlight situation.”

Kyle will participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas Jan. 9, 2010. He will also graduate from high school in December and enroll at USC after the bowl game.