EMPORIA, Kan. (KWCH) It isn't often, you'll find NFL wide receivers taking in high school football games, let alone games here in Kansas. But on Saturday, that's exactly what happened.
To find out why Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Byron Pringle was in Emporia to see the Derby Panthers capture a state title against Olathe North, you'll have to look back before he was in the NFL.
The connection to the Panthers starts with David Tullis, an assistant on the Derby team. He and Pringle were teammates at Butler Community College and at Kansas State University, but their friendship goes far beyond the field.
"He's got my back and I've got his, that is about it," said David.
Byron moved to Kansas from Tampa, Florida, to play football at Butler. Not knowing anyone, the Tullis family became a home away from home.
"It's unconditional. It is straight up love," said Pringle. "They have my back and I have their back, just a family away from home."
"For him to know he has a Kansas family here is as special and it is special for us too," said Allen Tullis.
Football ultimately took the pair down different paths, Byron left K-State a year early to test pro waters signing with the Chiefs. David stayed and that decision led him back to Derby where he's now an assistant on the team. Despite the distance, the two say they remain close.
"He's always texting or we text him, they're both so busy they don't get to see each other," said Cathy Tullis.
Now that his season is over, David plans to spend Sundays at Arrowhead Stadium cheering on one of his closest friends.
"When he makes a nice play on punt or something like that, I'll be yelling for him," said David.
"It is just a blessing to be able to have people like that who open up their house, just a place to get away when you have down time. It sort of feels like home," said Pringle.