The Legacy of Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor leaves behind a fumbled legacy.

Did you guys ever see the movie ‘Animal House'?  First of all, if you haven't you're a fun sucking communist.  Secondly, go watch it.  Immediately.  We'll wait for you. 

Hurry up, go.

Wasn't that worth it?  It's an all time great movie, and there's a scene that keeps rolling through my head as I sit here and try to discuss the legacy of the most controversial player to ever suit up for Ohio State in my lifetime.  It's the scene where Larry has the angel and devil appear on each shoulder, encouraging him to do the right or wrong thing.  The devil in me is telling me to let the hate flow and get it all off of my chest, but the angel in me is telling me that there are two sides to every story, and I should beat my chest and declare Pryor leaves OSU as one of the greatest players in school history.

So I've decided to start writing, and just let my feelings go where they take me.  I'm not nearly arrogant enough to think I speak for the entire Ohio State fanbase, I'm just speaking for me.  From the heart.  My scarlet and gray heart.

After the jump.

 

There are a lot of people who think Pryor will go down as one of OSU's most disliked players of all time, and right now, I don't doubt it.  Five years from now?  Ten years from now?  Who knows.  For the time being, he is seen as the catalyst that started the fire that brought down St. James of Upper Arlington, the greatest coach in OSU history.

And that's bullshit.

Pryor is a dumbass young man that was allowed to do what he did with the tacit approval of the coaching staff and administration.  Look, Ohio State fan, (and I consider myself to be an ardent one), let's stop defending what we would vociferously condemn if this had been another player in another program.  Let's stop fooling ourselves that this was an isolated incident involving just a few players, some tattoos, and a coach that lied to protect those few players.

When taken separately, these things, in and of themselves, are--for the most part--relatively harmless.  I don't think any college football fan that's being intellectually honest with themselves can say there aren't players on just about every team that don't get a free meal here, a free tank of gas there, en extra 5 bucks an hour for a job, just because they are a football player.  I really thought that after the parents of Storm Klein and John Simon blasted the SI story, it might start to fall apart, because it's built on a questionable foundation of anonymous, unreliable sources. 

But when you add the memorabilia selling, the tattoos, and the $40,000 for autographing stuff, what you have is a coaching staff, compliance department, and school administration that chose not to notice what had to be so obvious Stevie Wonder could have seen it.  Nor did they discipline Terrelle Pryor before this got out of hand.  Could I buy an argument that OSU wouldn't have caught a guy like Troy Smith receiving $500 from a booster one time?  Yes, I could.  You can't be everywhere at once.  Can I buy that two or three guys might get a free tattoo, and no one from the compliance department finding out about it?  Yes, I can.  Can I buy that the compliance department and/or the staff weren't aware Pryor was allegedly making more than an average family of four just for signing his name to some stuff?

No, I cannot.

But oh, the talent potential.  Madison, Wisconsin, October 4th, 2008.  Freshman Terrelle Pryor needs to lead the offense 80 yards for a game winning touchdown.  There's just over 6 minutes left, Wisconsin leads 17-13, Camp Randall is as nuts as it has ever been, and Pryor has his first real test as the OSU starting quarterback.  Result?  He scores on an 11 yard run with just over a minute left.  Big time players make big time plays in big time situations.  And that was big time.

Pryor was given no boundaries, and he took as much as he could get.  Did he know what he was doing was against NCAA rules?  He had to, and he didn't care.  He didn't care because OSU didn't make him care and come down on him early.  He didn't care about the University, the team, the fans, or our traditions, which we will revere long after Terrelle Pryor has left Columbus.

But man, you can't fault the kid on the field.  31-4 as a starter, 3 Big Ten titles, 3 wins over Michigan, 2 BCS bowl victories. 

Jan 1st, 2010.  Pasadena, California.  Terrelle Pryor has the best game of his Ohio State career, passing for 266 yards, rushing for 72, and throwing 2 scores as Ohio State wins their first Rose Bowl since 1997.  At times, Pryor is masterful, both as a passer and a powerful runner.  His stiff arms running were as impressive as his fourth quarter, outside shoulder TD pass to Devier Posey that clinched the game.

The starting quarterback sets the example for the team, good or bad.  Players saw what was going on, they saw what the coaching staff and what the compliance department wasn't doing, and they decided to go get theirs.

Pryor knew what he could and could not do, at least in terms of accepting cash for his autograph, and he decided to do the wrong thing.  He made a conscious decision to break the rules.  Terrelle Pryor failed, but the University and the coaching staff failed him by enabling his behavior.  Did they come right out and say "get as much as you can while you're here?"  Not in so many words, but Tressel's inaction and enabling, for the most part, said just that. 

On the field, there was almost nothing he couldn't do, at least when he put his mind to it.  January 4, 2011.  New Orleans, Louisiana.  Pryor accounts for over 300 yards offense, throws two beautiful TD strikes, and helps OSU exorcise their SEC Bowl demon by defeating Arkansas 31-26 in the Sugar Bowl.  Playing on an injured ankle and amid the Tat5 controversy, Pryor is able to block it out and be a leader for the Buckeyes on the field.

I don't think Jim Tressel is a criminal, nor do I think he is evil.  He is a football coach, and football coaches are paid to win football games.  When Tressel had to address Pryor's behavior, he looked at the landscape of his team and realized he couldn't win a lot of football games without him, so Tressel gambled that he could keep this out of the NCAA's sights by covering it up.  He made a terrible mistake, took a very calculated risk which blew up in his face, and he's paid for it.  It's a far cry from the 2001 Jim Tressel that sat his starting QB for a DUI for the Michigan game, and started an unheralded, unathletic backup.

And Tressel's inaction further emboldened Pryor.  And now Pryor leaves Columbus in disgrace, Jim Tressel has resigned in disgrace, and with the amount of money that is being bandied about, the IRS might consider getting Pryor on their appointment calendar.

Pryor's actions on the field could be maddening, but at times they were downright thrilling.  November 20th, 2010, Iowa City, Iowa.  Pryor has had an up and down game, throwing two bad interceptions, and Ohio STate finds themselves with their back against the wall against a determined Hawkeye team that would love nothing more than to knock OSU out of the Big Ten title picture.  OSU must win to realistically keep their BCS hopes alive, but they are down to their last chance.  Near midfield, OSU faces a 4th and 10 for their season.  Pryor takes the snap, rolls left, sees an opening and takes off.  He jukes and darts for 14 yards as the air just completely leaves Kinnick Stadium.  A few plays later, Boom Heron scores with just under 2:00, OSU wins and eventually ends up playing in the Sugar Bowl.

But for all of those thrilling in game moments, Pryor has stained a very proud program, a deep stain that will take a very long time to remove.  And all of the highlights in the world won't wash that away. 

Pryor's got a lot of growing up to do, and maybe someday he will.  I don't think selling what is ostensibly your personal property is a crime, and if somebody wants to pay you for your autograph, I don't think that should be illegal, either.  But that's another discussion for another time, because right now it is against the rules, and he did know the difference between what was right and what was wrong, at least in the eyes of the NCAA.

And Terrelle Pryor chose himself over his team, his university, and the fans that will be left to pick up the pieces.

So what is his legacy? 

You tell me.

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