Pryor Opens to SI about Improper Benefits
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It has been almost a year since Terrelle Pryor left the Ohio State football program.
Photo by Dan Harker
It is going to take a lot longer before the former No. 1 overall prospect is welcomed back to Columbus. It was only this past July that Pryor was officially ruled ineligible by Ohio State, who then disassociated him from its athletic program for five years.
Pryor was being investigated by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits above and beyond the memorabilia sales that landed him a five-game suspension to start what would have been his senior season at Ohio State.
He didn’t stick around to find out what further sanctions might come his way, but Pryor recently opened up to Sports Illustrated about the motivations behind some of the decisions he made during his time at Ohio State.
“It was humbling,” he told SI.
“A mistake I made when I was a freshman by selling my (gold) pants for $3,000 just took away everything from me. I was just driven into the ground. 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.
Pryor says he felt like he was being portrayed as the worst person in the world.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“My face popped up on the screen, and it seemed like I was the only one who did anything (wrong),” he said.
“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.”
The feeling was overwhelming.
Pryor began to sink into a dark place, and when Jim Tressel was forced to resign at the end of May, there was nowhere for Pryor to turn. He did not have much of a relationship with interim head coach Luke Fickell, at least not compared to the almost fatherly connection he had with Tressel.
With no one to turn to, and the walls closing in around him, Pryor left Ohio State and declared himself eligible for the NFL’s Supplemental Draft. First, he had to get himself ruled ineligible for the season.
In order to do that, Pryor had to burn some bridges with his former program, not to mention a number of former teammates. That process reportedly led to the eventual suspensions of Jordan Hall, Travis Howard and Corey Brown, along with the additional five games for DeVier Posey.
When the violations happened, Pryor says he believed he was doing the wrong things for the right reasons.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“The reason why I did it was to pay my mother's gas bill and some of her rent,” he told Sports Illustrated.
“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.’ ”
According to Pryor, his mom ended up losing her job and couldn’t afford to pay for heat in the house where she lived with Pryor’s sister.
“Let me remind you it was freezing cold in November, December, and she's using the oven as heat,” Pryor said.
“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. It's not like I went there and bought new Jordan’s.”
Pryor believes he has the documentation to prove that the money he took for the memorabilia from his freshman season went back to his family in Jeanette.
“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,” he said.
“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. I felt like I was doing God's work in a way, and I was getting driven into the ground.”
Today, Pryor has traded in his Scarlet and Gray for the Silver and Black. He is entering his second season in the NFL, after being taken in the third round of the supplemental draft by the Oakland Raiders.
He has yet to throw an NFL pass, and it may be a while before he ever gets a shot to play quarterback in the NFL. Since drafting Pryor, the Raiders have traded for Carson Palmer and signed Matt Leinart.
It’s going to be an uphill battle for Pryor if he is going to see the field as a quarterback in Oakland, but maybe his experience at Ohio State has better prepared him for the adversity he now faces in the NFL.
“It's a new day and I'm feeling better,” he continued. “It was humbling, but I learned from it.
“When I was coming into Ohio State ... I had some type of ego with me. I felt like this stuff humbled me and brought me back down to the ground -- like, your stuff stinks, too. I'm just trying to be the best person I can be and best quarterback I can be.”
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