by Nathan Fry
For many athletes, personal motivations are driven by relationships and the places that they came from. Troy Pride Jr., cornerback and fourth-round pick out of Notre Dame, is no different.
But the difference between Pride and most of the stories you'll hear on draft night is that while he plays for a team located nearly 700 miles away from his alma mater, Notre Dame, playing for the Panthers didn't force him to move more than a two hour's drive from his hometown of Greer, South Carolina.
One of the most influential bonds for Pride is his father, with whom he shares his name. The connection between the two goes as far as the number that he wears for Carolina: 25.
“25 was the number he had,” said Pride. “I wore it the first time I played varsity football and it was kinda like the roots for me.”
The father and son bonded over football throughout the years, as the sport was an early presence in Troy's life. His younger brother, Chance, played with him as well.
Pride Sr., who is currently an assistant coach at nearby Riverside, where Troy began his high school career, was also the coach for his sons.
“My dad coached me a couple times when I was growing up, playing on the Taylors Falcons with my brother," said Pride.
"It teaches you a lot. To be the coach’s son is usually a privilege, but for me it was more pressure- an opportunity for me to prove myself to different players and the parents in the stands who were thinking ‘Why is this kid getting the ball?’ That was the start of it, but moving on past that, he taught me about important attributes to have that will make you a successful football player.”
By playing for him in his early years, Pride said that his father instilled in him the values of “toughness, determination, and hard work.”
Whether it was being pushed to win every rep during wind sprints, or being challenged to be the best player on every snap, Pride's competitive and determined nature began from a young age.
“I was held to a different standard from the beginning. With that, it taught me to always be a step above.”
That drive to be a step above continued throughout his high school career, which saw him win region titles in football, enjoy back-to-back undefeated regular seasons, and play both sides of the ball effectively - as well as winning state championships in track and field - while competing at his hometown school, Greer. His accomplishments, which included setting Greenville County records in the 100, 200, and 400 meter races, earned him a football scholarship to Notre Dame- one of the most selective schools in all of college football.
Pride's high personal standards aligned with the university's, which is part of what led the 4 star corner to commit to the historical giant, despite having offers from schools like Clemson, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Ole Miss.
“Notre Dame is tradition,” said Pride. "What Notre Dame stands for entails a lot. To carry on that tradition takes individuals that are willing to do the hard things and be something different than a normal student athlete. I took that challenge head first and committed myself to that process.”
The dedication that Pride showed to the culture of Notre Dame and the daily process that it required didn't just line up with his previous experiences- it also put him in a position to succeed in Matt Rhule's new Panthers' culture as well. Those values of determination and hard work translate well to the defense that Rhule and his defensive coordinator, Phil Snow, are trying to build in Carolina.
“We’re attempting to set a standard for our players and our coaches of being the toughest, hardest working, and most competitive team in the NFL," Pride explained.
"That’s what we want to embody and what we want to be. It’s what we’re all working to do each and every week. Either you’re up to that standard and doing everything for the team or you’re not.”
Attempting to establish a new culture takes new players and fresh blood all around the organization. In this search for a new identity, the Panthers started with drafting seven defensive players, setting an NFL record for having the first ever all-defense draft.
"It’s been fun to get to know [the rookies] and to be thrown into the fire with them to get to see what they’re made of," said Pride.
One of the rookies that Pride has had a strong relationship with is the safety-linebacker hybrid out of Southern Illinois, Jeremy Chinn, who Pride famously predicted would wind up on the same team as him in an Instagram direct message.