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Pryor’s future uncertain

As the U.S. economy continues on its rocky path, the job market remains unstable.

It’s especially shaky for a third-year athlete facing a five-game suspension and questions about whether he can succeed as quarterback at the professional level.

Terrelle Pryor, center of the Buckeye universe since he committed to Ohio State on March 19, 2008, must confront an intricate situation containing the key to unlocking his future.

The Jeannette, Pa., native confirmed to the media Saturday that he will return for his senior season, even though he will first serve a five-game suspension for receiving improper benefits.

“When bad things happen to you, that’s when you want your family around you,” Pryor said. “Going through all of this, that’s when you realize that Ohio State football is your family.”

The NCAA suspended Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas for five games after learning the players had violated NCAA rules by selling gear, apparel and memorabilia to the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor in 2009.

Freshman linebacker Jordan Whiting must sit out one game.

NCAA rules prohibit athletes from receiving benefits or discounts based on their persona.

The suspensions, however, won’t take effect until next season, allowing the athletes to play in Tuesday’s Sugar Bowl. The NCAA concluded that the rules education provided by the OSU compliance department did not meet NCAA standards at the time the players sold the merchandise.

Pryor came to OSU because he felt coach Jim Tressel’s system would better prepare him for the NFL than if he chose to run rampant in Michigan’s spread offense.

Now, despite a 30-3 career mark as a starter in scarlet and gray, his legacy rests on thin ice.

Fans have voiced displeasure toward the quarterback who, although proud of the Block ‘O’ tattoo on his right forearm, didn’t value the sentiment of his Big Ten championship ring or gold pants trinket as highly as Buckeye Nation preferred.

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“You shouldn’t worry about what other people say, but you do take a lot of what other people say into your mind,” Pryor said. “They’re saying it for some reason. That’s the hardest thing, is hearing people say some cruel things about you. You know what you did and you take the responsibility, but guys are still out there nailing you and talking about you.”

Pryor said he tossed around the idea of turning pro after the Sugar Bowl to evade the lengthy suspension and lessen the hit on his draft stock.

But then Tressel required all five players to pledge to return for their senior seasons before granting them permission to travel with the team to New Orleans.

Although the promises are nonbinding, Pryor vowed to hold up his end of the bargain.

“I think some guys pledged and some guys — we were just basically saying sorry,” he said. “I don’t want to say that if (someone) would choose to leave, that they’re breaking a pledge. I think some guys have different situations. (But) once you pledge something, I think you’ve got to keep your word for it.”

Should the NCAA uphold its ruling — which OSU is appealing — Pryor wouldn’t be eligible until the Buckeyes’ contest at Nebraska on Oct. 8. That would leave him with seven games, plus a possible conference championship game and bowl game, to script the final chapter of his college career.

But would he regain his starting job that easily?

Tressel has had a penchant for rewarding veteran players.

Quarterback Joe Bauserman, who has served as Pryor’s primary backup for two years, will be a redshirt senior next year. Ken Guiton, who has also seen action this year, will be a redshirt sophomore.

Then there’s Braxton Miller, widely considered one of the top recruits in all of college football. The Huber Heights, Ohio, native enrolled early at OSU so he could take part in spring practices.

Tressel said he expects a testy quarterback competition in the spring.

“I’m sure in the spring and so forth … in the spring that would heat up,” Tressel said.

Regardless of how he fits into next year’s plans, Pryor knows a memorable Sugar Bowl performance will go a long way for his legacy and NFL stock.

For the quarterback who always seems to have the ball in his hands, he’ll have to learn to bide his time until it’s his turn.

“I’ve never sat out a game in my life,” Pryor said. “I don’t know how it’s going to affect me next year.”

Pryor acknowledged that he has work left to do at the college level, work that somehow must be completed in the minimal time he has remaining in Columbus if he’s to improve his job prospects.

“We’ve just got to win,” he said. “I’ve got to come up with some type of plan with (Tressel) for next year, because that five-game suspension could really mess up things I really want to accomplish. As of right now, (I’ll) keep winning as much as possible and keep leading the team as best I can.

“I guess I’ll need to leave the rest to everyone else.”

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