Pryor pulls double duty on gridiron
There are students who play football. And there are students who march with the band. And then there’s Laun Pryor.
The Greenville High School senior will be spending his Friday nights this fall pulling double duty, donning the Tiger uniform for four quarters as a defensive end, and spending half-time performing on the French horn as part of the marching band.
Pryor, whose dad, Chris, is the band director at Greenville Middle School, can’t remember when music wasn’t an integral part of his life. “I’ve been in the band since fifth grade and I couldn’t imagine giving that up,” says Pryor, who also plays the piano and most brass instruments.
But the tall, strapping teen enjoys sports, too, both as spectator and participant. He’s played basketball and baseball for GHS. The gridiron seemed the next logical step.
“I’m a pretty big guy, and people are always telling me I should put my size to good use. I understand I’m not the best on the team,” Pryor explains. “I joined the team to try something new, to try something not many people get to do. To have the chance to play in the band and to play for an amazing team, and get to meet so many great people from each.”
But taking advantage of such an opportunity has demanded a high price for your typical teenager.
Just ask the young man about his summer vacation.
“I spent so much time at the school, I felt like I never had a summer break,” Pryor says.
“Balancing football, basketball, baseball, academics, band and my job at The Edge sounds challenging, but it’s even harder when you’re actually trying to do it.”
And yet he also managed to fit in an economic development camp at Huntingdon and an aviation challenge camp for JROTC this summer.
“There were many moments when I felt like it would be easier to just give up,” Pryor admits.
But he’s no quitter.
“When I commit to something, I really commit. The one thing that kept me going was my family, mainly my mom (Naomi, an English teacher at GHS) and one of my coaches, Marcus Mickles. They always push me forward, and whenever I was unable to move, or did not want to wake up—they gave me a reason to do it.”
Pryor’s band director, Brett Johnson and his football coach, Josh McLendon, have tag-teamed to make this unusual student experience doable for the senior, says Johnson.
“The coach and I worked it out where sometimes he’ll go to band practice and miss football practice and sometimes the reverse. He’s still responsible for making up the rehearsals and drills on his own time. I have the philosophy that if a student wants to participate in multiple activities, and they are willing to put the work in, then we should give them the chance,” Johnson explains.
A football-playing member of a school’s marching band is not a situation that often arises in any high school.
“This is the first time we’ve had this happen since I have been here. It happens, but it’s not very common,” Johnson says.
Pryor is certainly no stranger to working hard and aiming high.
The section leader for the brass instruments in the band, Pryor has been chosen as an all-state musician, participating in a number of state and regional honor bands as well.
“Growing up around music, it just felt natural to start playing an instrument,” he explains.
And he’s had a busy high school career, serving as a member of the Spanish Honor Society, Beta Club, Senior National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, SGA, Scholar’s Bowl, math team, the principal’s advisory board and the JROTC Tiger Battalion.
What’s this scholar-athlete-musician hoping for in his senior year?
“I really plan to make the most of my last year in Greenville. I plan to do as much as possible and leave a strong impact on the community,” Pryor says.
As for life after high school, he hopes to study either civil or industrial engineering at UAB or Duke University.
What downtime the busy teen manages to find is usually devoted to getting ahead on schoolwork, practicing, applying for scholarships and working at the movie theater.
It’s a big challenge, juggling sports, scholarship and music. But it’s also one that Laun Pryor is happy he is getting to take on.
Johnson has faith that the young man will make the most of this unusual opportunity.
“Laun is very bright and talented and has multiple gifts musically and athletically. Especially as a senior, it’s good for someone like him to experience multiple things to help him choose his path once he goes to college. We are excited to see how everything goes.”
As for this honors student, all-star musician and gifted athlete (and Eagle Scout), he is just grateful for the chance to play multiple roles on the gridiron this autumn.
“I am so appreciative that our band director Mr. Johnson and coach Josh McLendon have worked with me, in order for me to participate in both football and band,” Pryor says.
Tiger fans, be on the lookout for the tall, dark-haired fellow with the horn marching on the field at half-time. He’ll be the one wearing his Tiger football jersey.