In Defense of Terrelle Pryor

By D.J. Byrnes on July 27, 2011 at 1:00 pm
In Defense of Terrelle Pryor

Frankly speaking, I’ve always thought Terrelle Pryor was a bit of a jackass. I've held this opinion since a fateful afternoon in the spring of 2009, when I got a glimpse of the majestic canyon that seperates our respective athletic talents. I assume only because he was bored, TP, then already The Man on Campus, strolled into the RPAC with some beefy football player, picked up three random bros, and destroyed all comers for the next hour and a half.

He (almost) literally sexually assaulted a dude during one of his many dunks. He back-trotted and maintained the Gooseneck after swapping a three. He whispered “glass” into my ear before he banked in a turn-around jumper from the elbow. He grunted with more frequency than Serena Williams with every jab-step, every cross-over, and every dunk attempt. Between games, he worked two BlackBerrys while smirking.

Terrelle Pryor did all of this all while never breaking a sweat. He played pick-up basketball for an hour and half, was the best player by a country mile, and didn’t break a sweat. (Granted, 60% of his competition was hung-over, but still). After he was done, he hollered to his friend, “Let’s go, ain’t nobody up here who can guard me.”

By this time, it was evident Terrelle Pryor thought rather highly of himself.

Though, I can’t say I blame him. When I first arrived as a freshman at the University of Montana, I had 10 bottles of MD-20/20 (SO HIGH CLASS), about $2,500 (high school graduation money), and a dorm room (closet). I thought I was The Man; to the point where I was probably a bit of a douche-bag myself. (Some would say there was no "probably" about it). So, how can I hate on Terrelle Pryor, a man who was the biggest celebrity on campus before he was ever enrolled in classes, for developing an ego?

I can only imagine how big I could inflate my ego if I were holding nationally televised press conferences about where I was going to take my 1.18 high school GPA. If I had been told—from a very early age—that I was The Man, wouldn't I enevitably start believe it? And if I didn’t, I’m sure there would be no shortage of beautiful women to try to convince me otherwise. I think, when viewed through this scope, TP’s mindset becomes quite understandable, if not outright predictable. He’s not the first to be afflicted by the disease of American celebrity and he’s certainly not the last.

Given that, it’s been quite perturbing to watch OSU fans completely abandon TP in the wake of recent “scandals”. Sure, he might be a douchebag; but every one of us contributed to it. When we were cheering his touchdowns against Wisconsin or his Rose Bowl victory, he was probably every bit of a douchebag then as he appears to be now.

Terrelle Pryor, perhaps, wasn't the most humble of cats, but he’s still a figure of tragedy. (I don’t mean “tragedy” in the sense that I would in relation to the recent events in Norway or Kim Kardashian’s relevancy; I simply mean it as I would in relation to a character in a play). For TP, it was never supposed to be this way.

... It’s weird, because, Tressel and TP, as different as they were… they went down for essentially the same crime. At the end of the day, neither of them respected the NCAA or their arbitrary rulebook.  TP did it in a way which resulted in him getting discounted tattoos and a few extra thousand dollars in his pocket. Tressel did it in a way which lead to him ignoring the fact his star quarterback was pulling up to the Woody Hayes practice facility in a new car every week. In the end, they both decided they were above the NCAA rulebook. And that’s all understandable, because the NCAA rulebook is a joke.

If you embrace and accept Tressel & his redemption, then you must accept Pryor’s. To accept one, and to shame the other, is, in my opinion, hypocrisy. So why does one get a parade to his house, while the other gets a constant stream of hate-fueled messages on his Twitter feed?

America, for better or worse (definitely worse), always needs somebody to blame. If there’s a screw-up somewhere, somebody’s head must roll. It’s just the way it goes. And Pryor… well, he’s the one whose head hit the chopping block. (Even though he was essentially doing the same thing as Ohio State's Head of Compliance).

Tressel, the leader of the program, at best, was strategically ignorant of some lifestyle choices of Mr. Pryor and I’m sure nobody was aware of it more than Mr. Pryor himself. Hell, it would have been a miracle if we never ended up here.

Sure, Tressel was fired and he certainly deserved to be. (Aside: why is this just brushed aside as a penalty for people who want OSU to [basically] face a firing squad?) But in the end, this is about young kids choosing bad company, discounted tattoos, and cash in return for signatures.

If Eddie George were to come back to Columbus & play a free round of golf… it would only be the 183,012,193rd time in American history that an athlete had received some special perk. If Terrelle Pryor is the one receiving a free round of golf, it’s now being treated as if he’s a heroin trafficker. It’s absurd.

Terrelle Pryor is now the pariah who led to the downfall of golden-boy Jim Tressel. For a mob needing to blame somebody, Pryor is the perfect poster-boy. IF ONLY PRYOR COULD HAVE KEPT HIS GREEDY LITTLE HANDS TO HIMSELF, TRESSEL WOULD STILL HAVE A JOB.

This, of course, ignores the fact that Tressel helped create the culture at Ohio State which TP skillfully fed off. If Pryor were the first footballer in Columbus to eat fruit from the Forbidden Tree, then these people might actually have a case. I doubt Pryor was doing much more than prior Ohio State stars… he was just unfortunate enough to get caught.

Since coming to Ohio State, Pryor hasn’t done much but win ball-games. (31-4 as a starter, 3-0 vs. Michigan, 2-1 in BCS Bowls). Given the millions (and make no mistake, it’s millions) OSU and the NCAA have raked off Pryor’s back, I don’t fault Terrelle Pryor for getting his. Maybe he made $40,000 over the course of his career at the University of Ohio State. Forty thousand dollars over three years is a pittance compared to what is being made off him or what he would make if he were paid properly for his prodigious talents.

Tressel, of course, knew what was going on, and in the end, he too thought he was bigger than the rules, preferring to deal out his own brand of in-house justice rather than take things to the NCAA investigators. Both blatantly ignored NCAA guidelines and both have been swiftly punished for their actions.

While Tressel is a grown man, it’s easy to forget that Terrelle Pryor is just 22 years old. It’s also easy to remember we’re talking about discounted tattoos and trading signatures for cash. His worst offense is having an ego incapable of fitting into the Horseshoe on game day. I guess this is explains the fact that, while there have been plenty of OSU fans taking up a defense of Jim Tressel the human being, not too many have come to the aid of Terrelle Pryor's.

This ignores the fact that we all helped build Terrelle Pryor's ego... brick by brick. I'm pretty sure Buckeye Nation was elated when Pryor chose the University of Ohio State over everybody else. I'm also sure I wasn't the only one calling for Terrelle Pryor to start over a guy named "Todd" after the Buckeyes got their teeth shoved down their throat by USC in 2008. And I couldn't have been the only one cheering on his gliding runs into the endzone. I also don't recall being particularly angry about discounted tattoos when Ohio State finally got the SEC monkey off their backs this past winter.

Terrelle Pryor is a man who has probably been surrounded by people with money signs in their eyes since he was very young. Do you think, if Terrelle Pryor couldn't throw a football, a rich, white guy from Western Pennsylvania would want to "mentor" him? (Still waiting on the transcripts of those conversations). After we all assisted in cobbling this legendary myth of him, we're now going to act angry that his ego got the better of him? Now I've got to listen to people like Bobby Carpenter give diatribes on 97.1 The Fan, acting as if he never took or enjoyed the benefits of being a football player in Columbus, Ohio? As if Pryor was the first? Or the last? Ridiculous.

I have always thought Pryor was a douchebag, but I simply can't blame him. I also realize he's 22 and may have cost himself millions of dollars in draft money in exchange for $40,000 sprinkled over three years. (Money which he should've been entitled to in the first place, but hey, that's another discussion in itself). Ohio State fans should save their death threats for people who truly deserve it--people like radio hosts with contrarian opinions.

It's been wrong how the Ohio State "family" has turned on Terrelle Pryor while still embracing Jim Tressel. And, just like Jim Tressel will one day be (rightfully) cannoninzed into Ohio State lore, then Terrelle Pryor should be allowed to ascend to his rightful spot amongst Ohio State's all time greats at quarterback. I hope this whole saga has taught Pryor who his true friends are and just how fleeting a chance in the NFL can truly be. I hope he parlays all of these troubles into a successful NFL career.

Family, sometimes, will disappoint you. Terrelle Pryor, whether we all like it or not, is part of The Ohio State family. It's easy to wear t-shirts and $5 buckeye necklaces and cheer when we're up 44-3 in the 4th quarter against Toledo... but it's during the turbulent times where character shines through the most.

Hopefully Ohio State fans and Terrelle Pryor can both accept some change is needed.

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