Monday, May 14, 2012


Terrelle Pryor
(TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
I look back at the story of Terrelle Pryor at Ohio State and it makes me quite sad.

Here was a player that coming out of Jeannette (Pa.) High School in 2008 was revered by Buckeye fans as the greatest quarterback recruit in the school's history, hailed as the player that would win multiple national championships and Heisman Trophies while sporting the scarlet and gray.

Now he is looked at as football's version of the anti-Christ in Columbus. The destroyer of a program. A cancer that took Jim Tressel's coaching life. And for what? Because he took money for items he earned?

The former Buckeyes quarterback and current Oakland Raider did an interview with Sports Illustrated recently and discussed the entire episode at Ohio State that cost him his senior season, and his welcome mat in Columbus.

"It was humbling," Pryor told SI. "A mistake I made when I was a freshman by selling my pants for $3,000 just took away everything from me. I was just driven into the ground. I was the worst person in the world. My face popped up on the screen, and it seemed like I was the only one who did anything. I was the only one who was getting attacked. 

"At that point last year, I'm 21 and it just felt like everything was against me, like I can't do anything right. I did something to help somebody else out, and I end up getting into trouble. I understand. I shouldn't have sold the stuff and taken $3,000. But I was kind of in a place where I didn't understand why this is happening to me — especially for the reason that I did it."

Why did he take the money? For clothes? For shoes? For tats? ...

"The reason why I did it was to pay my mother's gas bill and some of her rent," Pryor said. "She was four months behind in rent, and the landlord was so nice because he was an Ohio State fan. He gave her the benefit of the doubt and she said, 'My son will pay you back sometime if you just let me pay you back during my work sessions.' 

"She ended up losing her job, and she and my sister lived there. Let me remind you it was freezing cold in November, December, and she's using the oven as heat. That's what I did as a kid. I was telling the NCAA, 'Please, anything that you can do. I gave my mother this so my sister wouldn't be cold, so my mother wouldn't be cold.' They didn't have any sympathy for me."

No surprise to this writer that the NCAA was sans sympathy ... mob bosses usually don't possess that trait. Have you ever seen the movie Goodfellas? 

The NCAA made a mint off Pryor's jersey sales — of course, they will tell you that they only sold No. 2 Ohio State jerseys with no name on the back, but we all know who's cloth we we're dropping $75 on, don't we? 

We have also seen in the NCAA college football video games that the starting quarterback at Ohio State during Pryor's time there (2008-10) wore No. 2, stood 6-foot-5 inches tall, weighed 235 pounds, was black and had the physical ratings that mirrored Pryor's.

Coincidence? I don't think so. The NCAA can make money hand over fist, but let Pryor try to seek help for his family, and they go 'Goodfellas' on him: "Oh, you need to pay rent? Who gives a (expletive) ... pay me!"

"It's not like I went there and bought new Jordans," Pryor said of what he did with the money he made for selling memorabilia. "It's documented. Whenever I write my book the proof will be in there, the receipt that the money I gave my mother was to pay the electric and heat bill. The truth is going to come out one day when the time is right. I don't think I deserved being punished in that way, because of the reason I was doing it."

Contrary to the belief of many Buckeye fans, Pryor wasn't a failure in Columbus. In three seasons at Ohio State, Pryor went 31-4 as a starter — including 2-0 in BCS bowl games, where he won Most Valuable Player honors in both outings.

He threw for 6,177 yards in his career for the Buckeyes and 57 touchdowns (T-1st in school history), and added an all-time OSU record for quarterbacks with 2,164 yards rushing and 17 scores. He beat Michigan three times by a combined score of 33-8, and led the Buckeyes to at least a share of three Big Ten championships.

And did it while facing more pressure to succeed than perhaps any quarterback in the history of college football.

He also didn't destroy the program. There were several other players involved in the improper benefits scandal other than Pryor. Yes, I think it being a penalty for selling your own items for cash is asinine, but nonetheless, Pryor wasn't acting alone. And I am betting that many of the other violators weren't facing the same issues as the Buckeyes' star quarterback. 

He also didn't cost Tressel his job. The last time I checked, Tressel was a grown man in his 50s and had the opportunity to disclose information to the mob, err, NCAA and chose not to do so. Do I blame Tressel? Not at all. I would've done the exact same thing because I believe the NCAA is a criminal operation that exploits children. But again, Tressel made his decision to cover it up and by doing so had to pay the consequences.

The moral of this story is, people make mistakes. But before we ostracize a person for their doings, let's step inside their shoes for a moment and try to understand their actions. Live what they lived.

I recall when I was a young kid, my father had been laid off from work and we had to heat the house with the kitchen stove. So, I ask myself, what did Pryor really do? He sold his own possessions — that he earned — for money to help his mother and sister stay warm and keep a roof over their heads.

Would I have done the same if I were in his position, you know, the same one I faced as a child?

You're darn right I would. 

And if the NCAA or a bunch of football fans were against it ... well, tough you know what!

The NCAA doesn't care about Pryor's real world problems, and apparently many of the fans don't either. 

So why would Pryor care about them?

— You can follow Lee Hudnell on Twitter @LeeHudnell_TBT