Personal Space: a One on One Conversation with Jake Pratt


If you don’t know who Jake Pratt is, take a second to Google him. Stories about Pratt populate fully seven pages of search results—for instance: “Vestavia Hills student who scored viral touchdown meets Clemson Tigers coach Dabo Swinney”; “Alabama gives Jake Pratt customized No. 16 Jersey”; and, simply, “One of the most moving things I’ve ever seen.” That’s celebrity-level PR, but Pratt, who is 18 and has Down syndrome, takes it in stride.

Pratt first landed in the headlines and became a YouTube star in August, with a memorable touchdown he scored for Vestavia Hills against Briarwood Christian. At the end of a preseason game, the two teams decided together they’d hand the ball off to Pratt and then block for him to score a TD in the final play. A video shot by his sister went viral.

It didn’t come completely out of the blue. Pratt has served as the team manager and worked out alongside his teammates for years. His exceptional-education teacher, Jennifer Greer, says he was famous long before the touchdown heard ’round the Southeast, thanks to his winning personality, ability to get along with everyone, and willingness to work hard at everything he does—including his job at Edgar’s Bakery one day a week, where he helps bag cookies and perform other tasks.

Now, Pratt is being recruited by Clemson University for ClemsonLIFE, a program designed to give students with intellectual disabilities a postsecondary experience on a college campus (during his recruitment weekend, he got the full treatment, down to a night spent in the athletic dorm). He’s also being recruited by similar programs at a handful of other schools.

We went to Vestavia Hills to meet Pratt in person. Greer, his longtime teacher and friend, sat in and asked questions, too.

B-Metro: Okay, so tell me about this touchdown I keep hearing about.

Pratt: (Vestavia Hills Football) Coach Anderson said my name, and then I ran on the field. The other players were in the huddle, and they told me I had to run to the end zone, and then I got that touchdown. I was so happy to get that touchdown. I wanted to do it for my team.

B-Metro: Did the crowd go wild?

Pratt: They were chanting my name. My mom, my dad, my sister, my brother-in-law were there, and everyone kept yelling for me to keep running. My team was in the end zone with me, and they picked me up. And then I was dabbin’ at the end.

B-Metro: Do you feel like you’ve become…

Pratt: Famous?

B-Metro: Right! Because it seems like people always stop to talk to you and seek you out.

Pratt: Right. They like meeting me. I have a lot of good friends, a lot of guy friends and girls too. I’ve been on YouTube and on TV a lot.

B-Metro: Speaking of girls, I saw a video of you dancing with your girlfriend. What’s her name?

Pratt: Grace Davis. I’m taking her to homecoming. She’s in 10th grade. She’s a basketball cheerleader.

B-Metro: Tell me about some of the big college coaches you’ve met.

Pratt: I’m an Alabama fan, and my parents introduced me to Nick Saban. My dad’s a big Alabama fan, too. I have an Alabama jersey with my name on it.

Greer: Didn’t you also meet former Coach Gene Stallings?

Pratt: I knew Coach Stallings when I was a kid. I knew his son, John Mark. I went to the RISE program (which is located in Tuscaloosa and combines early childhood education, child development, early childhood special education, and integrated therapy and is housed in The Stallings Center, named for the Stallings family).

B-Metro: What do you think about going to college next year, maybe Clemson?

Pratt: I think it will be great. I’ve met Coach Dabo, and he was nice to me. He said I could be part of the team, and then maybe I could be the basketball manager after that.

Greer: What else would you do at Clemson? What do they teach you there?

Pratt: History, math, English, and science.

Greer: What else do you like about it?

Pratt: They have big classrooms, and then I can get a dorm. I can have a house party.

Greer: What are you going to do at your house party?

Pratt: Have pizza, and girls.

Greer: Pizza and girls?

Pratt: Oh yeah. No guys. I just like pizza and girls.

Greer: What if your friend Jonathan was there? You’d invite him, right?

Pratt: Oh, yeah. And his girlfriend. 

Photo by Nick Lisle

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