Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Prosinski playing his part

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming sophomore Chris Prosinski, front, watches from the sideline during a spring practice.
Suited for success

By Richard Anderson

Chris Prosinski came to the University of Wyoming as arguably one of the most decorated and successful high school student-athletes from Wyoming in recent years.

Prosinski won two state titles in football and another in basketball and was of one of five students (out of 2,500 eligible) to receive the National High School Scholar-Athlete award from the National Football Foundation.

After a good redshirt campaign, Prosinski earned playing time in the season opener and more time out on the field in the weeks to come. The Cowboys began 4-1. Everything seemed to be in place for the Buffalo native and the Cowboys.

But despite his added playing time at free safety, Prosinski didn’t enjoy what happened next -- the Cowboys lost six of their final seven games.

“The start was great,” Prosinski said Monday after practice “It kind of just fell apart down the stretch.”

Like many of his teammates, Prosinski has come into spring ball in better shape -- physically and mentally.

“Coach (Brian) Herzog had us working hard in the off-season, just to get in better shape and hopefully that will carry us down the stretch,” Prosinski said.

Wyoming defensive coordinator Mike Breske said that although Prosinski was thrown into the fire last season as a rookie, he handled the challenge well.

“I’ll never forget that first game of the year against Virginia, which was coming off his redshirt year,” Breske said. “What a day to get on the field, with some 30,000 people in the stands.”

Prosinski knew that he would have to make a big jump from Wyoming high school football to Division I athletics. It didn’t take him long to understand the difference.

“It’s just competing … how much more intense and faster the game was, especially coming from a Wyoming high school,” he said. “It was definitely a good learning experience. I had some ups and downs, but I learned a lot from it.”

Breske said Prosinski came in with the physical tools; he just had to adjust to his role as a backup.

“When you are not a true starter, you have to be ready,” Breske said. “That’s the difference from his Buffalo days. He knew that he was playing quarterback and he knew he was playing defense. He’s like, ‘I’m out there. Now, when is my shot coming?’ You have to be mentally ready. That is the difference.

“Physically, he is ready. Now, you have to keep your head in the game mentally, and you don’t know when that is going to be. That is a different feeling for a kid who was probably a four-year starter in Buffalo.”

Prosinski’s role likely won’t change this season, as he will still play behind safeties Quincy Rogers and Michael Ray. Breske, however, said his role will change when he is out on the field.

“What I am seeing out of Chris this spring is his maturity. He is more comfortable with what I am asking him to do with our defense, understanding his role in the defense,” Breske said. “His athleticism is awesome. His speed is better, his strength is better. He can cover from sideline to sideline. (Monday) he had two interceptions. He’s a guy I am counting on to make plays, not just to be out there. He’s a playmaker.”

Prosinski said he is OK with his role coming off the bench.

“As long as we’re getting wins, that’s what I am here for,” Prosinski said. “I’m not worried about starting. I just have to be ready when my number is called. I came in competing to play, whether it was starting or in a backup role. (Last season) whenever I was called, I was ready to play.”

Prosinski said things are going well in spring drills as the Wyoming defense looks to improve on last year’s national ranking.

“We’re working against a new offense this spring, which is a little different. We’re just touching up on our technique,” Prosinski said.

Breske said that although Prosinski may not be a starter at this point of his career, he is a “huge” part of the Wyoming defense.

“He’s a sophomore, so he will have three years into the system,” Breske said. “Coming into two-a-days, my expectations for Chris will go higher, just because he should understand the defense and he has playing time in. Now, let’s go make some plays.”

Like many Wyoming natives who become Cowboys, Prosinski said it is a dream come true for him to play in his home state.

“You come to these games when you are a little kid and you never really realize it, but the day came and I took the opportunity,” Prosinski said. “Growing up a Wyoming kid, it was something that I always pursued in my future.”

A business administration major, Prosinski said he is not sure what lies in his future, but he’ll have some options.

“I know you can do a lot out of it,” he said of his major. “We’ll just see what happens after school.”

Breske said that Prosinski has all of the tools on and off the field.

“If my daughter showed up with him at the house, I’d be happy,” Breske said with a smile. “He is a very quiet individual around me. I know he can be a little outspoken around the fellas. His teammates have the utmost respect for him and he’s a team player.”

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