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Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Famer Jack Prater made a career of helping the Hokies.
Jack Prater 1931-2013
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Jack Prater first made his mark at Virginia Tech as a football standout, but his time at the university did not end when he turned in his helmet.
Prater also worked for Tech as an assistant coach and a fundraiser , including a nine-year stint as the administrator in charge of the Hokie Club. His work for the Hokie Club spanned four decades.
“He enjoyed everything he did,” his widow, Betty Jo Prater, said Thursday.
Jack Prater died Tuesday at a Blacksburg assisted living facility at the age of 82.
He had suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for about 10 years, said his son Steve, the golf pro at Roanoke Country Club.
“He taught me how to be a friend to people and how to work hard and how to accomplish something with my life,” Steve Prater said.
Jack Prater, a native of North Miami Beach, Fla., began his Tech football career in 1951 before leaving school for two years to serve in the U.S. Army. He rejoined the Hokies for the 1954 and 1955 seasons, playing center and linebacker.
He was a member of Tech’s last undefeated football team — the 1954 squad that went 8-0-1 under coach Frank Moseley.
Players received a T-shirt to commemorate the accomplishment.
“That T-shirt’s turned brown almost, it’s so old,” Prater said in a 1999 interview. “It’s never been worn. I’ve just carried it around from stop to stop. That’s all we got for being undefeated. I’ve had it in my underwear drawer since they gave it to me.”
The 1954 team, which did not go to a bowl, finished 16th in the final Associated Press poll. Prater earned all-state honors that year. That squad also included the late George Preas, who went on to help the Baltimore Colts win two NFL titles.
As a senior, Prater was co-captain of the 1955 team. He made the All-Southern Conference team at center and was chosen to play in the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic.
While playing linebacker that season, Prater picked off a pass and returned it 73 yards in a 24-20 win at Florida State.
“He was very agile and quick,” former teammate Don Divers said. “Jack was just about as good a teammate as you’d want to have. When things got tough, he’d always pull [the team] together.”
Prater spent 10 years as an assistant coach at Virginia Tech, William and Mary and Miami.
“The players loved to play for him,” Steve Prater said. “He worked them really, really hard, demanded a lot from them. I felt like I was somebody because my dad was somebody.”
Jack Prater began working for the Hokie Club, Tech’s athletic fundraising arm, as field secretary in 1968. He later rejoined the Tech football office as an administrative assistant to coach Charlie Coffey.
After leaving Tech for several years, he returned in 1978 as an assistant athletic director. In 1979, he became the head of the Hokie Club; his title was executive secretary.
Mike Carroll was put in charge of the Hokie Club in 1988, but Prater remained with the Hokie Club as an assistant director of development for athletic programs until he retired in 1994.
“Jack was somebody who enjoyed life, who enjoyed people,” said John Moody, a long-time Hokie Club official who is now retired. “We had a lot of laughs. We traveled together a lot.
“Jack had a lot of friends because he was fun.”
One of the fund-raising groups that Prater helped start was the “Hackin’ Hokies,” who have raised more than $1 million in scholarships for the Tech men’s golf team.
Prater was inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.
He met his wife while he was attending Tech and she was working for the school. They were married the day after he played in the Hokies’ Thanksgiving Day game against VMI in 1954.
Prater and his wife had three children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
He was an avid supporter of his grandson Jack’s golf career.
“He always took Jack and his friends to all their golf matches and watched him play all the time,” Betty Jo Prater said.
The family will receive visitors from 5 to 8 p.m. today at McCoy Funeral Home in Blacksburg. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in Blacksburg.
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