Big-name school doesn’t bother Prentice

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 27, 2000

The Associated Press

BEREA – Travis Prentice doesn’t have Florida State, Tennessee or Michigan listed on his resume.

Thursday, July 27, 2000

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BEREA – Travis Prentice doesn’t have Florida State, Tennessee or Michigan listed on his resume. His college rarely appears on national TV or in the AP Top 25.

But the former Miami of Ohio star’s personal bio still includes some impressive material. For starters, Prentice is the NCAA career record holder for scoring, touchdowns, games scoring a TD, 1,500-yard seasons and consecutive carries without a fumble.

Not bad, huh?

”If you can play, then you can play,” Prentice said. ”It doesn’t matter where you come from. Walter Payton went to Jackson State. If you’re a good player, in the NFL they’ll find you. People didn’t see me play on Saturday, but that doesn’t matter now.”

The Cleveland Browns are hoping they found a hidden gem in Prentice, who was drafted in the third round (63rd overall). The 5-foot-11 Prentice figured to be picked much higher, but slipped when teams were either scared off by his size or the fact he played in the Mid-American Conference.

”Anybody that’s here deserves respect for being here,” said tight end Mark Campbell, a Michigan man. ”I don’t look at him and think Miami of Ohio. I don’t care where he went to school. What is he the all-time NCAA scoring leader or something? If you’ve got a record like that you’re very special.”

Prentice was dominant during his four years at Miami, the picturesque school in Oxford, Ohio, best known for producing coaching legends Paul Brown, Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.

Prentice finished with 35 school records, becoming the MAC’s career leader in rushing, scoring, TDs and all-purpose yardage. He also went 862 carries between fumbles.

During his senior season, ”Touchdown Travis” broke two of former Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams’ scoring records. And now Prentice’s 468 total points, 73 rushing TDs and 78 total TDs are the national standard.

But the knock on Prentice was that he picked up the bulk of his yardage against schools like Akron, Central Michigan and Kent – not exactly college football juggernauts.

Prentice, though, did run wild against some quality competition. Last season, he gained 151 yards against the Big Ten’s Northwestern, 165 against the Big East’s West Virginia and in 1998, he picked up 162 against the ACC’s North Carolina, one of the nation’s stingiest defenses.

”I played against teams like Northwestern and had good yardage on them, North Carolina and Virginia Tech when they were ranked,” Prentice said. ”Football is football.”

Prentice missed the Browns first nine training camp practices this summer while holding out for a bigger contract, and has had to play catch up since his arrival.

So far, he looks like NFL material. And last weekend he opened some eyes with an impressive performance in a scrimmage against the Indianapolis Colts in Columbus.

”I think Prentice has improved each and every day,” Browns coach Chris Palmer said Wednesday. ”You can see the improvement in his blocking, and the fact that he’s in getting all these reps has got to help him.”

Prentice got his first chance to work with the Browns’ starting offense on Wednesday when first-string back Errict Rhett sat out with a sore knee. The 221-pounder showed some good cutback moves, and powered through tiny openings in the line.

”That’s the first time I’ve blocked for him,” said right guard Jim Pyne. ”He’s a big, physical guy and he runs hard. He’s got some shake to him. I’m excited to see how he develops.”

Prentice should help the Browns improve upon the league’s worst running game. Cleveland averaged just 71.9 yards per game last season. He’s also expected to see time on special teams.

He’s trying not to think too far ahead, however.

”You just can’t take something and run with it,” said Prentice. ”Last Saturday (against Indianapolis) I did pretty good, but it was just a scrimmage. You really can’t say I’m going to be the guy. I have to keep working hard.”