Spielman: “He Was a Great College Player, But…”
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the NCAA circling and fans in Columbus blaming him for the resignation of their football coach, Terrelle Pryor announced an end to his Ohio State playing career on Tuesday.
It may have come as a surprise to those who were hoping to see the splendid athlete back in a Buckeye uniform at some point this fall, but not to Chris Spielman. The former Ohio State linebacker said the time was right for Pryor to bid farewell.
“I don’t think anyone who is close the situation is surprised,” Spielman said during his interview on ESPN.
“With the mounting NCAA investigation on Terrelle himself, I think it was apparent he was probably going to be done for the year. Also there was no guarantee that Luke Fickell was going to bring him back.”
It was just over a week ago that Ohio State coach Jim Tressel announced his resignation amidst controversy from his knowledge of Pryor’s improper relationship with Edward Rife. After his freshman season with the Buckeyes, Pryor gave his Big Ten championship ring, Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and Gold Pants to Rife in exchange for cash or tattoos.
Pryor was set to serve his NCAA-imposed five-game suspension to start the 2011 season, but those actions never sat well with Ohio State fans.
“Obviously people were disappointed,” said Spielman, who starred for the Buckeyes in the mid 1980s.
“People hold their traditions dear and when you start selling championship rings and memorabilia, a lot of people take that personal. Buckeyes are all invested in the program. You don’t have to be a football player to be invested.”
Fans were greatly invested in Pryor as a high school prospect out of Jeannette, Pa. He was a freakish athlete with a strong arm, and he captured the attention of a nation as the No. 1 player in the class of 2008.
Pryor eventually chose Ohio State over Michigan and his hometstate school, Penn State. He was 31-4 as a starter for the Buckeyes with three wins over Michigan and two BCS bowl victories, but if he had not decided to leave the team on his own, fans may have run him out of town.
Photo by Dan Harker
“He was a great college player. He won a lot of games. He did a lot of things with his legs. He was improving as a passer,” Spielman said of Pryor, who finished his career with 76 total touchdowns.
“Unfortunately he made some poor choices and those choices certainly had a ripple effect, including Jim Tressel making a poor decision that cost him his job.”
Because Pryor started that ripple, he has taken much of the blame for Tressel’s departure from Ohio State. His lawyer, Larry James, told The Cleveland Plain Dealer that his client has been on “an emotional roller coaster” during recent weeks.
In his statement, Pryor said it was “in the best interest” of his teammates that he not return for his senior season. That could suggest there were more potential sanctions on the way for Pryor, who was already suspended for the first five games.
As it stands currently, however, Spielman says he is not sure how Pryor’s legacy will ultimately be remembered.
“It’s tough, because I don’t know how far back these guys were dealing with this tattoo guy. This wasn’t the first group of guys that were dealing with this issue,” he said.
“These guys made poor choices and its going to take a while for those wounds to heal. You have one of two choices. You either fold the tent and feel sorry for yourself or you galvanize and say we at Ohio State stand for something more. We stand for excellence and we’re going to get back to that.”
For the Buckeyes, that starts with Fickell, who now has the responsibility, at least for 2011, of righting the ship. He may have ultimately decided that it would be easier to do without Pryor, who missed all of spring practice with a foot injury, but was does that mean for the quarterback’s future at the next level?
“I keep hearing people say tight end, but I don’t see how you can take a guy who never blocked down on an outside linebacker or doubled down on a defensive lineman and say you’re going to be a tight end,” said Spielman, who analyzes college football games for ESPN during the fall.
“I do think he’ll get drafted in the supplemental draft, but I’ll be surprised if it’s under the fifth round. He’ll get a shot, but whether he develops into a quarterback, that remains to be seen. I do think the odds are against him developing into that type of player.”
The supplemental draft is intended for players who missed the filing deadline for the NFL draft or had other issues develop that affected their college eligibility.
Pryor has not yet been ruled ineligible for the 2011 season, which means he may not be eligible for the supplemental draft unless his eligibility status changes from when he decided not to declare for the traditional NFL draft.
If Pryor is not ruled ineligible, he could decide to play in the Canadian Football League or United Football League for one season and then declare for next year’s NFL Draft.
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