By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — McAlester seniors Jarome Smith and Caden Pratt have played side-by-side throughout their four years playing for the Buffaloes. They were the Dynamic Duo of the Buffs’ kickoff-return unit, and they often shared the backfield on offense as well.
Smith and Pratt may not be side-by-side next year, but they’ll still be on the same team.
Smith and Pratt both signed their Letters of Intent to play for Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant on Wednesday at McAlester High School. Fellow senior Cade Harkins signed with Southern Nazarene University in Bethany during the same signing event.
“At the very end, he was kind of talking like he was going to go where Cade went, and I just kept begging him,” Pratt said of Smith. “I was like, ‘Dude, you need to come with me. You need to come with me.’ He ended up going (to SOSU), and it makes me feel a whole lot better that I’m not going to be the only one.”
All three players described the recruiting process as stressful and expressed relief that it had finally ended. For Pratt, the choice came down to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah or SOSU.
“Northeastern, whenever they got that new coach (Rob Robinson), they kind of strayed away from me,” Pratt said. “And Southeastern seemed like they grew closer, so I felt more comfortable with Southeastern.”
Pratt said he’ll spend time next year as both an inside receiver and a punt- and kickoff-returner. He’s played all three positions for the Buffs, as well as running back and quarterback.
“It’ll all be the same plays and stuff,” Pratt said. “It’ll be just kind of like learning a new language.”
Pratt’s career statistics with McAlester include: 2,254 rushing yards and 26 touchdown runs; 1,644 passing yards and 19 TD passes; 691 receiving yards and 7 TD receptions; 727 return yards; seven interceptions and 14 blocked kicks.
Awards this year for Pratt include District 5A-3 Player of the Year, selection to the Oklahoma Coaches Association All-State Game and selection to The Oklahoman’s All-State First team.
Smith won District 5A-3 Offensive Player of the Year, made the OCA All-State game and the Tulsa World All-State second team. He said his choices came down to SOSU or SNU.
“They showed the most interest, really,” Smith said of SOSU. “I liked the campus. It’s close to home.”
A four-year starter for the Buffs just like Pratt, Smith said he’ll play running back next year. As a Buffalo running back he rushed for 3,249 yards and 40 touchdowns, adding 897 kick-return yards and four kick-return touchdowns.
“Everyone is going to be better,” Smith said of next year. “They won’t be below-par. No more competition like that.”
Smith added that signing with a college fulfills a dream he’s had since the third grade.
Southeastern is an NCAA Division II school in the Great American Conference. The Savage Storm went 2-9 in 2013, and the Durant Lions, one of the Buffs’ district opponents, play their home games at SOSU’s Paul Laird Field.
“I’ve played every one of my games (against Durant) at the college field, and I’ve had a lot of success there,” Pratt said.
Southern Nazarene is also a Division II school in the same conference. Although Harkins said the Crimson Storm didn’t show interest in him until a month ago, he said SNU’s coaches said he’s been on their radar since the Buffs’ 2012 playoff game at Deer Creek.
Harkins said he’s dreamed off playing college football “basically my whole life.”
“I already have my plan worked out, so it feels good (to) have the whole deal over with,” Harkins said. “You just don’t know what the coaches are thinking.”
Southern Nazarene went 0-11 in 2013.
A starting wide receiver for the Buffs, Harkins will continue as a wide receiver next year. As a receiver for the Buffs he caught 76 balls for 1,384 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Also a starting cornerback for the Buffs, Harkins recorded eight interceptions and recovered two fumbles in his last two seasons. Harkins was named District 5A-3 Co-Receiver of the Year and also earned honorable mention on the Tulsa World All-State team.
“To sign three of these guys and know what kind of caliber of players these teams are getting makes me feel really good,” Buffs coach Bryan Pratt said.
“Football ends sometime, but that education is never going to end.”
With all three Buffs playing in the same conference, Harkins will face off against Caden Pratt and Smith in an Oct. 11 game at SOSU.
“It’s pretty weird to think about, but I’ll be playing offense, so I won’t have to tackle them, thank God,” Harkins said.
Caden added, laughing, “Regardless of the score at the end, we’ll be taking pictures afterwards. And there will be some trash-talking being talked.”
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.