Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Crier Pryor Train Wreck

Up until this past week, my fondest (and strongest) memory of former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was actually a photo taken at the end of the Penn State-Ohio State game back in 2008.  Penn State had just capped off a thrilling win to maintain their (at that point) perfect season.  Terrelle Pryor, who was just a freshman at the time, struggled throughout the game. Time after time, PSU's crushing defense proved to be too explosive for the young QB who couldn't read a defensive play if he was given a color coded copy of the oppositions playbook.  Pryor ultimately fumbled the ball on a careless play, which eventually led to the drive that produced the game-winning drive for JoePa and Co.  Pryor took a seat on the Buckeye bench, buried his head in his hands, and a nearby photog snapped a brilliant shot that Nittany Lion fans will forever remember as the Crier Pryor photo.

As cherished as this moment was in my Penn State v Ohio State memory bank, it took back seat in the midst of the ever evolving OSU scandal. It's an everyday soap opera for college football fans.  It's so bad, its good. Tressel is gone, Pryor is gone, and four other important players are suspended the first four games of the year (not to mention postseason bans complimented by the loss of scholarships is likely on the horizon.) But as of now, the most satisfying news of the past few months is the train wreck Terrelle Pryor's legacy has become. Three years ago, Penn State fans were begging for him to take his talents to Happy Valley. Now we're counting our blessings. Thank the football gods he chose the scarlet and grey over the classic white and blues.

Issues with Pryor's personality and character have not been much of a secret.  Stories of a generally cocky attitude and using his celebrity to take over VIP areas of clubs and restaurants have graced the internet and multiple articles of the past three years (and more frequently, the past 10 days). And I've gobbled it up. Can't get enough of it.  Especially because I know Terrelle Pryor's chance of success in the NFL is limited and his days of football glory are most likely behind him. His athletic prowess is off the charts. I can't deny that. But his passing ability is mediocre on a college level at best, and his decision making (on and off the field) is not professional quarterback worthy.
"I can't wait to sell this entire uniform." "What?"
"Nevermind, just ignore it, coach." "Ok."

Besides all that, what NFL team would be willing to make a legitimate investment in a player with Pryor's obvious character flaws and a growing list of issues with authority?  I understand college football players are not paid, but NCAA rules clearly state that using your status as a football player to make money or receive benefits is strictly prohibited. Pryor disregarded this rule without so much as giving it a second thought.  He drove 8 different cars over the past three years, sold memorabilia and autographs for upwards of $40,000, and I'm sure further stories of Pryor money-grabbing antics will continue flooding ESPN in the next few weeks.  A former friend of Pryor's claims the Buckeye QB knew he was breaking the rules, but frankly, he didn't care.  Honestly, it amazes me this issue took three years to become big news.  If a kid from modest upbringing is suddenly dressing well, driving a $50,000 car, inking his entire torso, and generally living the life of an actual professional quarterback, well, somebody is breaking the rules.

I'm sure this happens at every college athletic program in the country; I'd be stupid to think otherwise. In fact, according to USA Today, just two programs have unblemished athletic programs that remain untainted by NCAA violations (For the record, aside from Stanford, Penn State is one of the two. Learning this only made this whole OSU scandal even sweeter. God bless you, Joe Paterno).  However, when a player chooses to so blatantly break major NCAA rules, not only do you have to question his ability to handle authority (pretty important in NFL culture), but you need to question his loyalty and dedication to his team.  Ultimately, Pryors and his teammates' actions have totally crippled Ohio State's football program.  It cost a potentially legendary coach his career, and in the coming months, could end OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith's as well. To cap it off, Pryor has now chosen to leave the university, quit the football team, and turn to professional football, just three months before the opening game kickoff.  Fans in Columbus are happy to see him go, and look forward to putting this scandal behind them, but really, Pryor is just running from problems and quitting on his teammates, who need a leader now more than ever.

I'm sure the saga in Columbus is far from over. More people will be fired. Future scholarships will be revoked. Postseason bowl eligibility will vanish. The prestige of a major college football program has taken a major hit, no doubt about it, and the effects may linger for years to come. It's pretty hard to bring in recruits without sufficient scholarship opportunities, or the promise of a major bowl game.  Pryor may not have to deal with the hardship OSU athletics is about to face, but I like to think he's sitting on bench somewhere, head in his hands, crying his heart out. Something tells me though, this isn't true.

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