Superior in every way, shape, and form, Terrelle Pryor was the definition of a high school phenom. He was the top high school football recruit in the nation, and a top 100 recruit for basketball too. He broke Pennsylvania state records, won state titles, and was heavily recruited by every major college football and basketball program in the country. Safe to say, TP was living the dream.
Pryor, in what Sports Illustrated called “the most anticipated signing day announcement in history,” chose to continue his football career at Ohio State, where it was expected that he would contribute and possibly start at quarterback as a true freshman.
Three games into his tenure at Ohio State, Pryor was pinned as the starting quarterback and given the expectation to lead the Buckeyes back to national championship contention. In his first season, he led OSU to what many thought was a disappointing trip to the Fiesta Bowl, where Pryor and the Buckeyes lost to Texas in epic fashion. Amidst another poor Buckeye performance in a big time game, Buckeye Nation had faith in their young superstar.
Entering his sophomore season, Pryor’s maturation and development grew as he began to understand and grasp the complexities of playing the quarterback position. After a mid-season upset at the hands of Purdue, Pryor led OSU to a Rose Bowl victory over Oregon, cementing his status as a possible Heisman candidate the following season.
Although Pryor was listed on every preseason award list and Heisman trophy watch entering his junior season, his prospects as an NFL quarterback were still far away from becoming reality. Due to poor mechanics and a lack of “pocket presence,” Pryor was considered a “long term project” by most NFL scouts and experts.
In Columbus, fans were conflicted and unsure as to whether or not this would be Pryor’s final season in a Buckeye uniform. Sure enough it was, but it wasn’t for reasons any fan would’ve imagine.
After an excellent junior season in which Pryor threw for 27 touchdowns and ran for over 700 yards, things took a turn for the worst for OSU football. It was discovered just before their BCS bowl game that Pryor and four other players would be suspended for the first five games of next season following an NCAA investigation that found Pryor and company guilty of receiving free tattoos in exchange for players’ memorabilia.
Here’s the five players’ public apology:
Luckily for Ohio State, the NCAA let Pryor and the four other suspended athletes play in the Sugar Bowl versus Arkansas. Behind the play of Pryor, the Buckeyes won their first BCS bowl game against an SEC team, leaving a good taste in the mouths of OSU fans as they entered next season hoping the Buckeyes could survive without TP for the first five games.
After this point, things got ugly.
A few weeks later, it was discovered that OSU Head Coach Jim Tressel had prior knowledge of the illegal activity involving the suspended players and covered it up to save his players from their ensuing suspensions. Even worse, the NCAA continued to investigate OSU’s compliance department after allegations had been made that Pryor was driving new cars like it was nobody’s business.
Tressel was subsequently forced to resign as head coach, Pryor decided his time in Columbus was done, and Ohio State was later placed on a one-year bowl ban along with a loss of scholarships.
No longer apart of the program, Pryor decided to enter the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft, hoping that a team would give him the opportunity to prove he is worthy of playing quarterback in the NFL. After running a sub 4.4 in his pro day, the always-colorful Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders selected Pryor in the third round of the Supplemental Draft, thinking that his pure athleticism and speed would help him progress into a future starter.
For two seasons, Pryor sat on the bench and watched as the Raiders continually lost and lost and lost (this is a big theme with the Raiders these days).
While Pryor was riding the bench and becoming a forgotten figure to the people who once put so much trust in him, OSU was suffering through the worst of times and the best of times (notice the change-up here, sorry Dickens).
After enduring a 6-7 season under interim coach Luke Fickell, Ohio State hired the holy grail of college football to be their new head coach: Urban Meyer. Meyer, who won two national championships during his tenure at Florida, made an oath to bring Ohio State back to it’s heralded tradition and continue to dominate against the team up north.
The Urban Era began in the fall of 2012, and to this date the OSU football team has not lost a game under his direction. After a perfect season in which the Buckeyes finished 12-0 and capped off the perfect season with a victory against Michigan, the Buckeyes look to run the table again this year. However, this season they hope to finish the job in Pasadena at the BCS National Championship Game.
While all of this was unfolding in the confines of Buckeye Nation, Pryor was still in a far away land where he was quickly being forgotten about by everyone and anyone.
At the final game of the Raiders 2012 season, Pryor was reluctantly given the nod to start the last game of the season. He played fairly well in his short time under center, throwing two touchdown passes and running for another. But even with his relatively strong performance, the Raiders still didn’t think he was ready for the full-time starting job, and decided to make some changes at the position during the off-season.
The Raiders traded incumbent starter Carson Palmer to the Arizona Cardinals, made a trade for superstar back-up quarterback Matt Flynn from the Seattle Seahawks, and drafted Tyler Wilson from Arkansas in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. It was expected that Flynn and Wilson would compete for the starting job, while Pryor continued sit behind them and learn the position.
But when training camp rolled around just a few weeks ago, a different Pryor showed up to work. What was once a two-person quarterback battle became a three-person battle, and before we knew it Pryor was getting the bump to start in the preseason. Could Terrelle Pryor actually win the starting quarterback job? Nah, you serious man?
Sure enough, reports are surfacing across the web that TP will be back in the spotlight this Sunday as the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders.
After almost three years away from the spotlight, Pryor has the chance to reclaim his once heralded name and prove to fans that he is not the same selfish kid who cared more about free tattoos than helping his team win.
As a Ohio State fan, I feel conflicted as to whether or not I should even care about Terrelle Pryor. He was the byproduct of an epidemic; a culture where athletes are treated as royalty in return that we ask that they don’t act like normal college kids and make stupid mistakes. But at the same time, he knowingly put the fate of so many people in his hands by deliberately acting against NCAA rules. Is this something you can live with?
I am never one to wish badly on someone, but Pryor’s chance to redeem himself has come at a steep cost for so many people; he has forever changed the lives of so many of his teammates, coaches, and friends. That’s something I have a hard time grasping.
Whether or not you agree or disagree with the way Terrelle Pryor handled his situation at Ohio State, he will be back in the face of the public as he attempts to prove his doubters wrong. Will he make it in the NFL? I don’t think there’s enough tape to say yes or no.
What we do know for sure is that this right here is his one shot to prove he’s worthy of being remembered, and our memories being forgotten of all he did wrong at OSU.
They say time changes a man. I’m curious to see if this holds true.