Joe Podelco / Lantern photo editor
For Terrelle Pryor, the Sugar Bowl is bigger than busting Ohio State’s 0-9 slump against the SEC in bowl games or redeeming the Big Ten after its horrid, winless New Year’s Day bowl performance.
The junior quarterback’s mental toughness and his ability to fight through adversity will be on display. If he fails to rise to the occasion, it will harm his legacy, something that Pryor speaks so fondly about.
In his attempts to rally the spirit of the Buckeye faithful, Pryor has boasted that he’ll get his “jersey hung up” at Ohio Stadium and that he “wants to leave a legacy here.”
Apparently whatever legacy of success Pryor has at OSU is neatly displayed on some guy’s mantel, rather than at the Horseshoe.
After the public learned of the Buckeye players’ five-game suspensions for improper benefits, including selling awards and receiving discounted tattoos, the legacy of selfish behavior seems to be the only one they’re leaving behind. That’s certainly not what Pryor implied originally.
Of course, Pryor is not the only Buckeye guilty of selling out tradition for personal gain, but he obviously is the most prominent of the bunch and the most oft criticized.
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit is seemingly Pryor’s most public and outspoken critic. The former Buckeye quarterback ripped Pryor for his sideline demeanor during games, to which Pryor responded by calling Herbstreit a “fake Buckeye” on Twitter.
That’s coming from the “true” Buckeye in Pryor — if “true” Buckeyes hock their hard-earned, team-oriented rewards for cash and tattoos. At the end of the day, showcasing your “school pride” with a giant Block “O” tattoo that looks like a 4-year-old scribbled it in crayon doesn’t sound like it’s worth the price to me.
That may sound harsh, but it’s tame in comparison to Herbstreit’s blanket statements about Pryor’s award-selling controversy, such as, “You wonder how much involvement he had in this, if he was the ringleader in this.”
I, meanwhile, can’t help but wonder why Herbstreit’s obnoxious Byers Auto Group commercials on local TV label him an “MVP quarterback.” Is it his memorable 8-3-1 1992 campaign as OSU’s starter? Is it referring to his legendary days in Centerville’s peewee league? Whatever the case may be, he’s certainly the “MVP” of hyperbole when it comes to trying to prove to college football fans that he’s not a biased Buckeye.
If Pryor’s saltiness toward his critics in harsh times is any indication of how he’ll play on the field, it doesn’t look too good. The tweet parade doesn’t stop with Herbstreit, as Pryor even addressed the rumors of getting improper benefits before the suspensions were passed down.
“I paid for my tattoos. Go Bucks,” Pryor posted on his personal Twitter feed.
That tweet mysteriously and conveniently disappeared a day later.
Evidently, he’s taking public relations lessons from his “mentor” LeBron James.
In the face of all the criticism, the Sugar Bowl presents an opportunity for OSU and, most importantly, for Pryor. It’s a challenge more demanding than a last-second drive to beat Wisconsin in Madison. Essentially, it’s steeper than any challenge he’s faced in his career.
A singular, heroic, final-minute drive defines just a season. How Pryor and his fellow
Buckeyes respond to the public backlash will define their entire careers.
If Pryor replicates his winning performance from last year’s Rose Bowl and makes good on his promise to return next season, his decaying legacy can be salvaged. OSU currently has a 30-3 record with him as a starter, and that sparkling record on his résumé will stand out even more with a strong end to his career.
However, if he’s not able to steer the Buckeyes through its most trying time in the Jim Tressel era, he’s an outcast, much like Herbstreit appears to be within the Buckeye community.
Starting with this Sugar Bowl, we will find out if Pryor’s closer to Archie Griffin or Maurice Clarett in OSU lore. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the nimble-footed quarterback, however, it’s not to count him out when the weight of the world is seemingly on his shoulders. Look no further than the fourth-and-10 against Iowa earlier this season.