Over the last couple of months it has become increasingly clear that Terrelle Pryor has a chance to start at quarterback for the Raiders. For Buckeye fans, this presents a challenging philosophical question: should they root for Pryor to succeed?
Despite a new coach, an undefeated season, and two top recruiting classes, most of us probably haven’t completely recovered from Pryor's fall from grace and its repercussions. Many of us still suffer from a mild case of Post-Tattoo-Stress Disorder. Plenty of us have the occasional flashback of TP rolling up to the Woody Hayes Center in a new Nissan 350Z only hours after the resignation of our beloved Jim Tressel. Lots of us are still in a little bit of pain.
Some of us, however, are still angry at Terrelle. Though many Buckeye faithful have all-but forgiven the likes of DeVier Posey, Boom Herron, and Mike Adams, who were also involved in the scandal, they seem to retain a special hatred for old #2 (or #6 professionally). Deservedly or not, Pryor remains the face of the scandal for some.
Pryor certainly isn’t the first Buckeye great to engage in questionable off-field conduct; the misadventures of players like Art Schlichter, Cris Carter, and Maurice Clarett are well chronicled. In fact, Carter's fall-from-grace parallels Pryor's in a lot of ways. In both cases Ohio State's best offensive player became enmeshed in a scandal that led to the wrecking of a coming season for which there was great potential and high expectations. In both cases this scandal involved dishonesty and deceit. And in both cases the player entered the supplemental draft, having gone from heralded to hated in a matter of weeks. At the time, Buckeye fans probably hoped that Carter's NFL career would be a bust.
But they love Cris Carter now. Now that he is a legendary wide receiver. Now that he is a notable TV personality. Now that he is bound for the Hall of Fame. Carter is widely regarded as one of the first of many great receivers at what would later claim the moniker of "Wide Receiver U." In the pantheon of Buckeye greats, Carter's name is near the top.
And they even root for ex-players like Maurice Clarett (who has a new book out) to succeed in their post-Ohio State endeavors. These OSU faithful supported Clarett's UFL career and endorse his mentorship of Ohio youth. Yet, whereas they support other players who left Ohio State on less-than-favorable terms, many still hope that Terrelle Pryor never again sees the field in Oakland. My question is: what sets Pryor apart?
Granted, there are a few differences between Pryor's situation and Carter's or Clarett's. First, neither Carter's actions nor Clarett's led to a beloved coach being fired, as Pryor's arguably did. Second, Clarett had just led Ohio State to a National Championship before his departure – a win that was not subsequently forfeited as Pryor's 2011 Sugar Bowl win was. Finally, whereas Ohio State fans have had one or more decades to get past our anger with Clarett or Carter, the Pryor wound is still somewhat fresh, and, accordingly, some people are still angry.
Despite these differences, I believe that anger toward Terrelle Pryor is no longer justified, and that all Buckeye fans should be rooting for him to succeed in the NFL.
Why? It’s simple really: with all the good and the bad, he’s a Buckeye, and it is in all Ohio State fans' collective interest for Ohio State alum to succeed in the NFL. It is undeniable that such success has positive effects on the university's recruiting, visibility, and prestige. Just as Buckeye fans enjoy seeing Cris Carter on TV and are proud to see a slew of Buckeyes playing in the Super Bowl, they should revel in the possibility of seeing Pryor excelling in the NFL.
And make no mistake: Pryor has a chance to succeed. Strong, fast, and mobile, Pryor has the attributes to fit into the new Colin Kaepernick mold of NFL quarterbacks. Even if Pryor does not start for the Raiders this year, the team is looking for creative ways to get him involved in the offense. Terrelle Pryor was and is a great athlete, and he could very well be an important contributor very soon.
Ohio State devotees should hope that Terrelle Pryor finds a place among the new generation of quarterbacks and that Braxton Miller does the same a few years down the road. At Ohio State, they've produced our share of great NFL wide receivers, linebackers, running backs, and defensive backs, but they could use a few more quarterbacks in that famed group.
In sum: move on. Like it or not, Terrelle Pryor is still a Buckeye. In six months, there will be plenty on the field to blow out of proportion. Let a young person with his window of opportunity still open do everything in his power to seize it. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, when his past is forgotten once and for all, he can join other crestfallen but later-redeemed Buckeyes who now serve as ambassadors for the university to which you and he both claim allegiance.