This November, Mike Pritchard's name will be cemented into Colorado history, when he is part of the 2015 class inducted into the CU athletic hall of fame for his outstanding achievements. The "Rocket of the Rockies" played the game of football with anticipation, passion and excitement; leaving defenders dumbfounded on how to cover him. Nearly 25 years ago, No. 9 became one of the most prolific athletes under Coach Bill McCartney. Some scouts called him "undersized" at 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds, but that didn't stop Pritchard from becoming a dangerous threat for CU on the field. He was a large part the 1990 national championship, and was named the most valuable player for the game after receiving All-Big Eight honors that season. Having McCartney as a coach and mentor changed Pritchard's life forever. "It was beyond what I expected-- He helped me raise the level of exceptions, no matter what they were. He motivated me, inspired me and taught me. Everything that I am today is because of Coach McCartney."
Over the course of his All-American college career, Pritchard accumulated 47 receptions, 1,241 yards and 10 touchdowns. An immense statistic, considering the CU teams Pritchard was a part of only passed the ball roughly 18 percent of the time. He also spent time in the backfield as a rusher with 55 carries for 585 yards and 5 touchdowns in his career. The dynamic one-two punch on offense allowed Pritchard to set records for yards per catch (26.4) and average yards per touch (17.9). Both records still remain intact and untouched almost a quarter-century after leaving Boulder.
At the end of the 1990 season, some critics and fans alike thought Pritchard should have been considered for the Heisman trophy. The runner-up to BYU quarterback Ty Detmer that season was Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, whose stats that season were comparable to Pritchard's. He had the advantage over Ismail, with more touchdowns both receiving and rushing along with higher averages per carry/catch.
"I think what happened is Notre Dame at that point was always in the forefront and everyone was talking about them. Colorado was coming on the scene, we had the undefeated year before and lost to Notre Dame in the Orange bowl. We never really got the hype to where a lot of our players got a lot of recognition. Certainly, at the end of the year, when we won the national title, people started giving up recognition. But I think during the course of the year other schools were getting touted."
The marketing for college football on television in the early 90's was driven by popularity. It created a disadvantage for CU by not being in a marquee match-up nationwide and this was something Pritchard noticed.
"They had the notoriety because they were on TV every week. We were on TV here and there, but not showcase games. I think we had a few games at night where we were the only game on."
Pritchard and the rest of the Buffs weren't bothered by not getting the credit they deserved, but instead used it as motivation to take their game to the next level.
Out of the nine Buffs selected in the 1991 NFL Draft, Pritchard was highest pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round (13th overall). It was the highest selection at that point for a CU wide receiver, until Michael Westbrook was drafted No. 4 overall by the Washington Redskins in the 1995 Draft. Being a part of the Falcons organization was a humbling experience for Pritch, who hit the ground running with fellow star wide receiver Andre Rison. He began to pick up the technical aspect of the NFL with ease, but also had a good mentor who called himself "Primetime". The high stepping, showboating, ball hog cover corner, helped develop Pritchard’s game to become a better receiver during his early years in the 90’s.
"The one person who taught me the most in my career was Deion Sanders. At the begining of my career in practices, he would show me details and techniques on hand placement. He was a big help and would give me a standard for being a better receiver."
It was also with the Falcons that Pritchard would play alongside one of the three future NFL Hall of fame quarterbacks in his career. For a brief moment of their rookie seasons in 1991, Brett Favre was paired together with Pritchard and the two even connected for three touchdowns in a preseason game against the St. Louis Rams. Shortly after, Favre and he was sent packing to Green Bay and the rest was history. Pritchard recalls the fallout between his former quarterback and then head coach Jerry Glanville.
"I saw Brett as being very talented and when we came into camp our rookie seasons, he was determined to become the starter. Going into the season, he was benched after an interception and kept there until he was traded."
Three seasons after that, Pritchard would be on the move to a familiar area and close to a place where he once called home to play for the Denver Broncos. A difficult road was ahead for Pritchard that challenged him to overcome an injury. He would find himself diving for a ball in practice causing him to go down with a lacerated kidney.
"We were on a two-minute drill and it was crazy, we were going to be playing Buffalo. It was my breakout party with the Broncos because at the time, I was one of the top receivers in the AFC with Tim Brown. I was just hyped up for the gameplan and going pretty hard. I dove for a ball and didn't bring it in all the way and I landed on the point of it. The force lacerated the bottom part of my kidney."
Luckily, Pritchard didn't lose his kidney in the process and would come back after missing the remaining thirteen games of the 1994 season.
Another quarterback who doesn't need an introduction with NFL fans would help the transition for into the next stage of Pritchard’s career after the injury.
"John (Elway) was so athletic and you could make plays due to him being a pure competitor at quarterback".
The two flourished for the entire 1995 season before being split up due to Broncos Head coach Wade Phillips being fired and replaced by Mike Shanahan. Pritchard made the tough decision to leave the Broncos.
"Shanahan probably thought I was too short. Either that, or I was making too much money and back then the salary cap wasn't as friendly as it is now. We had Anthony Miller and some other guys that were highly paid at that position. I was one of the guys that didn't want to tak a pay cut being in the prime of my career. I could have stayed but I didn't want to take a paycut so it was a decision on my end. If Wade Phillips was still the coach-- It wouldn't have came to that but Pat Bowlen wanted to go with Shanahan and it worked out."
Not long after coming to Denver and spending just two seasons with the team (1993-95), Pritchard found the Pacific Northwest for the last stop of his nine year professional career. In the middle of his last four seasons (1996-99) with the Seattle Seahawks, the NFL veteran had the best seasons of his career with International Hall of fame quarterback Warren Moon. Pritchard though very highly of Moon's style of play on the field.
"He was the epitome of a pocket passer at quarterback. You had to be really disciplined on your routes and do everything that you did with attention to detail. Warren taught me everything about being the best receiver I could be because I needed to be so disciplined."
The veteran wide receiver would finish his NFL career with 422 reception, 5,187 yards and 26 touchdown and was the fifth fastest player to reach the 200 reception mark in NFL history.
Life after football has been pleasant for Pritchard, who keeps busy traveling back and forth between Las Vegas and Denver. He still keeps up with the Buffs and likes the direction the program is headed under Coach MacIntyre
"I like seeing the new structure of the program with MacIntyre, but the effort needs to start equating into wins. Especially joining the Pac-12 and the amounts of money that's be being put up by boosters for the new facilities. People have been patient so far, but the wins needs to start rolling in."
Outside of following his alma mater, Pritchard has roots in broadcasting and has developed an attention to detail in the game of life. He loves doing charity work and being involved in the stock market and both complement his skills as a entrepreneur. Pritchard is currently the co-host of the 'Mitch & Pritch Show' with Mitch Moss on ESPN Las Vegas 1100 AM &100.9 FM. You can hear him break down the world of sports during the week from 2pm-5pm eastern.