Greg Pruitt is sizeable proof that a player doesn’t have to be big to make a big impact in the NFL.
In his nine seasons (1973-81) with the Browns, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Pruitt used his speed, quickness and agility to etch his name into the team’s records books as a running back, receiver and returner. As such, he became one of the greatest overall skill players in Browns history. In fact, some might say he was the best.
And pound for pound, the club has never had a better player.
Career-wise on the Browns, Pruitt is:
*Fourth in rushing with 5,496 yards. Two of the players ahead of him are Pro Football Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly.
*Third in average yards per rush at 4.75 (minimum of 500 attempts).
*Seventh in rushing touchdowns with 25.
*Tied for third – with Kelly -- for most seasons of 1,000 or more yards rushing with three.
*Third with most games with 100 or more yards rushing with 17.
*Third in receptions with 323. One of the players in front of him is Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome.
*Third in scrimmage yards with 8,518.
*First in kickoff return average at 28.26 (minimum of 50 returns).
*First in punt return average at 11.77 (minimum of 50 returns).
*Fourth in combined net yards (rushing, receiving, punt returns and kickoff return) with 10,700.
A Houston native, Pruitt played at Oklahoma, where he was a two-time All-American, scoring 41 career touchdowns and ranking third all-time in Sooners history with 4.431 career all-purpose yards. It earned him induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
He was the third player selected by the Browns in the 1973 NFL Draft, being the first of two second-round picks at No. 30 overall.
Kelly was in his final season and was working with Ken Brown as the Browns’ prime backs, so Pruitt didn’t play much on offense for the first 10 games of his rookie year.
But talent always wins out in the end, and against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 25, 1973 at Cleveland Stadium in a battle for first place in the AFC Central, Pruitt had his breakout performance and proved to head coach Nick Skorich that he could play big – even in the biggest games – and help the Browns.
Pruitt scored two of his five touchdowns on the year, catching a 15-yard pass in the second quarter to give the Browns the lead and then running 19 yards in the fourth quarter for the game-winning points in a 21-16 decision.
But that’s not all. His second score was set up by one of the most electrifying plays in Browns history, a 42-yard catch-and-run on which he made no fewer than seven Steelers miss tackles. His touchdown came two plays later.
Browns fans swarmed the field after the game to celebrate with their new hero. They knew greatness when they saw it, and they were right, as it was just the start of a great career.
Pruitt, who finished his 12-year NFL career by playing three seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders, was in the first Cleveland Browns Legends induction class in 2001.
The 61-year-old Pruitt still lives in the Cleveland area, where he owns a construction company.