Calvin Pryor learned to be tough well before NFL scouts salivated over the Louisville safety's physicality.
"My father really instilled it in me at a young age," Pryor said. "When I used to fall on the ground and I thought I had hurt myself, he would tell me to get back up and just keep going."
Thanks in part to that mentality, some of Pryor's opponents didn't get up as easily after they crossed paths with him. In three consecutive games this past season, a Pryor hit ended the day early for an opposing player.
But before you get the idea that Pryor is merely a head-hunter destined to be a magnet for penalties and fines in the NFL, look closer. By all accounts, Pryor is a physical but within-the-rules player who tries to limit the use of his head to the more cerebral parts of the game.
"To play the game of football you have to be tough, but it's a thinking game," Pryor said. "You have to understand formations and how people are going in motion, and you have to adjust to those things.
"You have to be a smart football player at safety. You have to have an IQ and know what's going on."
Pryor has it going on, with a combination of smarts, savvy and stoutness that has some projecting him as a first-round pick in next month's NFL Draft.
Both Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama are projected as first-rounders at a position that is only increasing in importance. Last year, three safeties were selected in the first round, matching the total number chosen in the first round over the previous five drafts.
"It's a great need with the NFL being a passing league now," Pryor said. "You need more DBs out there that can make plays on the ball."
Pryor certainly fits the bill.
He measured 5-11 at the NFL Scouting Combine after being listed at 6-2 in college, but the 207-pounder still has a coveted mix of size and speed. He steadily developed throughout his three seasons at Louisville, starting out at strong safety before moving to free safety last season.
He was always around the ball in college, with 218 tackles, nine forced fumbles and seven interceptions.
"I feel like I'm a very versatile player. I can drop in the middle of the field and cover a lot of range," Pryor said. "My first two years at Louisville, I played mostly in the middle of the field. But after becoming a playmaker, causing fumbles, getting interceptions, coaches started moving me around having the ability to play all over the place."
At his position, Pryor has to know where everyone is at any given time. Opponents would be wise to know where Pryor is.
"It's all about a mindset and how you're gonna attack the guy. You want to deliver the hit, not take the hit," Pryor said. "I'm just going to be myself and stay aggressive and play like my hair is on fire."