Pending his GRE exam and admittance to Oregon, Prukop would be eligible to play immediately and hopes to enroll in classes in early January, giving himself eight months on campus before the Ducks’ first game of the 2016 season.
Prukop had suitors from Alabama, Texas and Michigan, among others. But he said it was Helfrich’s nature and the conversations they had this weekend while he was in Eugene that made him sure he wanted to commit to Oregon.
“He looked me in the eye and told me that he wanted me to do what was best for me and not to do what was best for Oregon,” Prukop said.
And yes, that meant Prukop taking a red eye flight on Sunday from Portland to Tuscaloosa to meet with Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin directly after his visit in Eugene. Prukop said it was interesting because had Helfrich put Prukop in a bind this weekend, he would’ve picked Oregon on the spot, but he knew that he would’ve always had a “what if” lingering in the back of his mind.
“[Helfrich] said, ‘I’m probably the craziest guy in the world right now, but I want you to go to Alabama,’ ” Prukop said. “He said, ‘You owe it to yourself. I wouldn’t feel right as a coach if I took an opportunity from you. I want you to go to Alabama, see what they have to offer and that way you’ll truly know in your heart if Oregon is the right place to go.’ ”
After his visit to Alabama Prukop traveled to Hawaii, where he had planned to go on vacation earlier with a Montana State teammate. He had already decided Oregon was the right choice when he ran into former Saint Louis football coach Matt Wright, Marcus Mariota’s high school coach.
Wright only reaffirmed Prukop’s perception of Helfrich when he told him that one of the main reasons Mariota chose Oregon was because of the relationship he had with Helfrich (who was then the offensive coordinator and main recruiter for the future Heisman winner).
“If Marcus Mariota chose Oregon because of Coach Helfrich and I’m choosing Oregon because of Coach Helfrich,” Prukop said. “Obviously, they’re doing something right and it’s something I want to be a part of.”
This past year the Ducks showed, at least near the end of the year, that success could be found with a one-year player plugged into and running their offense. In 2016 Helfrich will look to duplicate that with a commitment he picked up early on.