MOBILE, Ala. — Byron Pringle understands how easily his life could have gone another way.
"I've been through a lot, but I'm very blessed," he said. "What happened in the past, it made me who I am today. It's made me realize you have to value the things you have in life."
Arrested in Tampa in 2010 at age 16 on multiple felony charges — grand theft, burglary, battery — he earned a second chance at Tampa's Robinson High School. He graduated, but academic and off-field issues kept him from a scholarship to Youngstown State, so he took the long road. Two years of junior college led to a scholarship to Kansas State, where he thrived as a receiver the past two seasons.
"It's a blessing to have a second chance at life, to achieve your goals and live the dream you always wanted since he was a young kid," said Pringle, 24.
Now the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Pringle will showcase his skills at Saturday's Senior Bowl, making his case to be an NFL draft pick in April. He had 30 catches for 724 yards this past season — third in the nation with 24.1 yards per catch — with six touchdowns.
In Kansas State's 45-40 upset of No. 13 Oklahoma State, he had a huge game, catching touchdowns of 46, 47 and 60 yards and returning a kickoff 89 yards for a fourth score.
None of that would have been possible if Robinson football coach Mike DePue hadn't gone to bat for Pringle to allow him back for his senior year in 2011. That trust was rewarded, and Pringle continues to pay it back, remembering how a single bad decision can derail so much more.
"They saw potential in me. They knew I wasn't a bad kid," said Pringle, who wants a better life for his son Bryson, 2, who lives in Tampa. "It's a blessing that you have good guys to help change a kid's life, his family's life, his kid's life. My son motivates me."
Two nights in July 2010, he was part of a group that engaged in a spree of car robberies. He agreed to four years of probation and 100 hours of community services.
Pringle said he reminds himself that he must continue to follow the rules, to not betray the enormous faith so many placed in him. If he falls short of that, someone else might be less likely to get the same second chance.
"I have to stay on the straight path. I know that," he said. "It doesn't matter to me if it happened last week or (in 2010). I'm still accountable for it. I still own up to it. I knew right from wrong at the time."
Pringle is preparing for the NFL draft in April, working out in California this spring with other draft prospects, including former Robinson teammate and Wyoming cornerback Robert Priester.
His focus is on football, but that's not all he has now. Last month, Pringle earned a degree in criminology, setting himself up for life after his playing days are over. He was honored as Kansas State's co-offensive MVP at the team banquet, where his position coach, Andre Coleman, who once recruited him to Youngstown State, pointed to him as an example of what he wants his players to be.
"It took a lot of work from a lot of people to get Byron here," Coleman said, according to the Garden City Telegram. "I want to thank Coach (Bill) Snyder for giving this kid a chance, because if he hadn't, I really don't know where he would be. He came here and got good grades. He did everything the way Kansas State football is supposed to be."
Contact Greg Auman at email@example.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.