Coach Zook
Troy Pryor: Former Illini Linebacker Looks To Tackle Hollywood

Jan. 8, 2010

by Jenny Dewar, Illinois Sports Information

When you think of a 250-pound linebacker, many things come to mind, but high fashion is not one of them. Former Illini, Troy Pryor, has traded in his helmet for a completely different lifestyle as a fashion model and aspiring actor. Pryor came to the Fighting Illini as a walk-on in 2005 after suffering an ACL injury.

"During that first season of winter conditioning, I thought I was going to die," Pryor said "I thought I was in good shape, but I was extremely humbled after that first day. I knew I was going to have to push myself to survive on that team."

That experience is something that Pryor will keep with him for the rest of his life. His motto is observe, adapt and conquer, which is the idea of observing as much as possible and learning where you fit. And that is exactly what he has done.

Pryor is currently modeling, acting and working as a personal trainer. In the entertainment business, Pryor is constantly looking to improve his portfolio and work toward the next best thing. He fills his days with photo shoots, casting calls, workout sessions, and auditions, usually pushing a 16-hour day. Pryor credits his football days for allowing him to make it through the hectic schedule.

"Football taught me how to strive for something higher and look beyond what you can see," Pryor said. "The only way you are going to get what you want is to push yourself. The games are hard, practice is tough, but Camp Rantoul and winter conditioning workouts were a beast. Working that hard could make a weak person quit; it separates the men from the boys. Having your look critiqued at a casting call is much easier to stomach when compared to having a coach slap your helmet and yell at you. It gives you a tough skin and makes you a better person."

Pryor already has notable accomplishments under his belt, including appearing in print advertisements for The Finish Line, runway shows for designer Michael Kors and the 2007 Tyler Perry film Daddy's Little Girl. In addition, the 2010 Wilson Sporting Goods clothing line is based on Pryor's body measurements. He has been working with the company for over a year in order to help them create the most comfortable clothing for athletes.

Pryor did not always dream of becoming a member of the entertainment world. During a trip to Georgia in 2005, he was stopped by a casting agent for renowned director Tyler Perry, who asked him be an extra in Daddy's Little Girl. After the film, Pryor received a call from Perry himself saying that he had the look that the movie industry wanted. Despite the opportunity, Pryor chose to go back to Illinois football.

Throughout his years at Illinois, Pryor says he walked a fine line between football and a modeling lifestyle. After practices, Pryor would go to rehearsals for any and every fashion show on campus. Once the seed had been planted in Pryor's mind, his career began to take off. Immediately after college, a hair-care company picked up Pryor's image and used it in their ads, which ran in 13 different magazines across the country.

Pryor prides himself on being able to fit any modeling or acting criteria presented to him.

"Football taught me to go out and work for what you want," he added. "You have to be on top of everything, so I try to make myself very versatile. I use every asset I have to set myself up for the next level."

For Pryor, the next level is acting. Currently, Pryor has a lead role in a Chicago play, Crossed, which was written by Calvin King III, an Illinois alumnus. According to Pryor, theater acting is what prepares you for film and television. When he is up on the stage, advice from his football coaches still rings in his head.

"Coach (Dan) Disch used to say, 'fly around,' meaning know your playbook well enough to react quickly and without thinking about the situation. Get out on the field and have fun. In theater, you know your script but you must let yourself go. You have to go out there and have fun."

Pryor is definitely having fun.

"I love what I do, and you know what they say: if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life," Pryor said. "I get tired but I enjoy working these crazy hours. I would have loved to have a career in football, but I'm very happy with what life has given me."

Keep your eyes open, because Troy Pryor is on his way to the top. In his words, "the first Troy Pryor will become the next Will Smith."