An elusive and explosive back out of the backfield at the University of Oklahoma, Greg Pruitt finished 3rd in Heisman voting in 1971 and 2nd in 1972. The All-American rushed for 3,122 yards and 41 touchdowns for the Sooners over his time there. Measuring up at 5’10”, 190 Pruitt was lucky not to take a pounding, because defenders rarely got squared up on him.
The Cleveland Browns were intrigued by the diminutive back, and selected Greg with their second round pick of the 1973 draft slotting him behind their future HOF runningback Leroy Kelly. Pruitt was as advertised and immediately added an extra charge to the Browns offense primarily as a kick returner and punt returner. In 4 of his first 5 seasons, Greg earned Pro Bowl honors. It’d be in 1975 that he’d really hit his stride as a runningback, cranking out 3 straight 1,000+ yard seasons in a row as well as demonstrating a knack as a reliable receiving option out of the backfield. In 1974 and 1975, Pruitt had nearly 1,800 all purpose yards, and achieved at least 1,100 all purpose yards 6 times over 12 seasons. He’d enjoy career highs at receptions in 1980 (50) and then 1981 (65), before taking his show to Oakland to join the Raiders as their return man. In 1983 he’d lead the NFL in punt returns, putting together a whopping 58 returns for 666 yards and a 97 yard TD, earning his final pro bowl berth. The 58 returns and 97 yard TD were second in NFL history, while the 666 yards was an NFL record (all since surpassed). He’d win a Superbowl XVIII ring and retire after the 1984 season.
Greg Pruitt had some amazing highlight film of him running through defenders hands as they literally tore his jerseys off his pads. The problem was he intentionally wore those tear away jerseys so he could shake off those pesky tacklers. In response the NFL enacted the ‘Greg Pruitt Rule’ preventing any player from wearing tear away jerseys in 1979.
Greg was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Cleveland Browns Legends Class of 2001. Many of his records still stand tall on the Browns records lists, both single season and career. He currently lives in the Cleveland area where he owns a construction company.
DeadHorse went to a nearby signing to him in Ohio and came up with a few signatures for me from old Browns runningback greats Earnest Byner, Kevin Mack, and Greg Pruitt. Thankfully DeadHorse was paying attention as I got Greg and Mike Pruitt confused. He switched out my Mike Pruitt card and came through with a nice autograph for the collection.
G/GS 158/82 RUSH 1196 YDS 5672 AVG 4.7 TD 27 LG 78t
REC 328 YDS 3069 AVG 9.4 TD 18 LG 60t
KR 106 YDS 2514 AVG 23.7 TD 1 LG 88t
PR 194 YDS 2007 AVG 10.3 TD 1 LG 97t