Sunday, June 2, 2019 || By Shanel Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Kyle Prater with his old teacher, Marsha Alexander, during a return to Garfield, his alma mater, on May 24. | Shanel Romain
Former NFL wide receiver Kyle Prater, 26, returned to his roots last month, when he visited Garfield Elementary School, 1514 S. 9th Ave. in Maywood.
“He came by the school about a month or two ago and said he wanted to come back and do something for the students,” said Marsha Alexander, Prater’s fifth- and eighth-grade teacher while he was at Garfield. Alexander’s now the school’s principal.
After Prater left Garfield, he went on to play football at Proviso West High School, where he would become the top-ranked wide receiver in the country and one of the most coveted football players to come out of the Chicago area in a generation.
Prater eventually went to the University of Southern California, but transferred to Northwestern University after two seasons during a college career that was marked by six major injuries and five surgeries. Prater didn’t give up, though. He was still signed by the New Orleans Saints in 2015.
More injuries cut short his NFL playing days, but they also allowed Prater to find what he now considers to be his true calling. After the Saints placed him on injured reserve in 2016, Prater returned to the Chicago area to rebuild his strength.
Prater emphasizes the importance of education during his visit to Garfield, his old school, on May 24. | Shanel Romain
“I started filming my workouts and sending the film to teams, so they could pick me up again,” Prater said during a special assembly held at Garfield on May 24. Alexander, or “Ms. A.,” as Prater calls her, interviewed her former student on a stage across from a group of students from Garfield who had questions of their own.
Prater didn’t get picked up by any NFL teams, but he continued filming — gradually transitioning from shooting on an iPhone to working with fancier equipment and launching his own production company, Chasing Greatness Productions.
Prater’s gift for telling stories through film blossomed, attracting the attention of everyone from Kevin Durant and Kevin Hart to Kanye West. Prater’s even created commercials for brands like Nike and Champs.
Prater said a recent trip to India with former Bears running back Matt Forte, who is also one of his clients, opened his eyes to another mission he said he’s called to fulfill. The former NFL players teamed with Biblica, the International Bible Society — a global Christian ministry — to distribute copies of the organization’s Game of Life book, which features Bible scriptures and testimonies from athletes.
“That trip solidified the fact that I need to have more of a presence in my community here in the Chicago area,” Prater said. “Starting in Maywood.”
Monica Alexander, Marsha’s Alexander’s twin sister and another one of Prater’s favorite teachers at Garfield, told Prater that he is continuing a path that he set at his alma mater.
“You were a leader back then,” she said. “You always came back and we’re so proud of you. You’re going all the way to the top!”
Students at Garfield Elementary School listen attentively to Prater during an assembly on May 24. | Shanel Romain
During the assembly, as Prater’s production crew was filming, Marsha Alexander asked Prater to stress how important education was during his upbringing.
“Education was really important,” he said. “It was so important that it didn’t have to be stressed, anymore. Education is life, education is power and power is education.” VFP
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