Kyrin Priester doesn't want to talk about what happened at Clemson. But he's ready to work for WSU.
PULLMAN — On the first day of practice back in Pullman on Tuesday afternoon, a day after the NCAA ruled that Clemson transfer Kyrin Priester would be eligible to play for Washington State this season, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound sophomore aggressively attacked the Cougars’ defensive backs on every play.
It didn’t matter whether he was going up for the ball, running a route or blocking. Each time Priester engaged, he meant business.
“Whooo! Atta boy, Priest,” outside receivers coach Graham Harrell whooped at the end of one play, when Priester blocked one of the Cougs’ cornerbacks so hard he sent the kid reeling backward.
Priester barely reacted. He simply trotted off the field and watched impassively as the next play unfolded. Athleticism and receiving skills aside, that physicality is Priester’s calling card. He plays with a purpose, as if he has something to prove. And perhaps he does.
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A St. Petersburg, Fla. native, Priester was a four-star recruit when he signed with Clemson out of Fork Union Military Academy in January 2014.
However, his tenure with the Tigers came to an abrupt end when he was kicked off the team on Sept. 3 after playing only one game.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said at the time that Priester’s dismissal stemmed from attitude issues. In an interview with The Seattle Times this week, Fork Union coach John Shuman said he thought the incident stemmed from “an issue with playing time.”
“He spelled out his frustration and the (Clemson) coach said, ‘If you’re going to be that frustrated, you need to take a hike,’” Shuman said, adding that he was very surprised to hear about the incident last fall because he’d had no problems with Priester during the receiver’s time at Fork Union in 2013.
“I had a great relationship with him,” Shuman said. “He was a ‘yes sir, no sir’ kind of guy. Everything he did here was first class. We hold him in high regard.”
A year later, Priester just wants to leave the entire episode behind him. On Tuesday, the receiver spoke to the media for the first time since he joined the Cougs in the spring, but repeatedly declined to comment on the reasons behind his dismissal from Clemson.
Instead, he expressed gratitude to the Washington State coaching staff and said he’s excited for the season to begin.
“I just love it here in Pullman. They’ve given me a second chance and a better opportunity to get to the next level,” Priester said. “A lot of people have done a lot to help me get eligible for this year. Clemson helped out a lot and WSU did too.”
The Tigers, after all, had to sign off on the appeal that WSU submitted to the NCAA on Priester’s behalf.
In most cases, a football player who transfers from one FBS program to another has to sit out a year according to NCAA transfer rules. The Cougs put together an appeal for Priester based on the “run off” clause, a little-known NCAA rule that allows athletes who got forced off their previous team to play immediately for their new team if they can prove that the circumstances that led to their severance were beyond their control.
“They just supported the facts,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said when asked about Clemson’s involvement in the process. “Priester made a change and everybody is excited for him.”
After he left Clemson, Priester chose Washington State over offers from Utah and Kentucky because he liked the familial atmosphere surrounding the program and was good friends with running back Keith Harrington, a fellow St. Petersburg native.
Priester joined the Cougars in the spring and initially took reps at both outside receiver positions. This fall, he’s found a home at X receiver behind Dom Williams.
Harrell said Priester has already taken on a leadership role on and off the field.
“From the day he set foot on this campus, he’s had a great attitude toward the game of football and us and the program, and it’s rubbed off on the other guys,” Harrell said. “They see how hard he works, and I think it’s made them pick up their level of intensity and work because they see how he’s playing.
“He comes in ready to work, and he takes a very businesslike attitude toward the game. He’s gonna do his job, he’s going to do it best he can, and he’s going to do it on every play.”