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Terrelle Pryor and JaMarcus Russell: Two Different Men, Two Different Fates

HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, PA - AUGUST 20:  Terrelle Pryor works out during his pro day at a practice facility on August 20, 2011 in Hempfield Township, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, PA - AUGUST 20: Terrelle Pryor works out during his pro day at a practice facility on August 20, 2011 in Hempfield Township, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Joye PruittSenior Analyst IAugust 23, 2011

Both were successful college quarterbacks. Both were MVPs of the Sugar Bowl, 2007 and 2011. Both were drafted to the Oakland Raiders. One in the NFL draft. One in the NFL supplemental draft. Those are the only similarities that Terrelle Pryor and JaMarcus Russell hold.

Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, both are fruit. But, one was rotting from the core as his time in the NFL went on. There should be no questions formed about Pryor’s ability to withstand the mental challenges of putting his best foot forward in the league. He pushed this hard to get here so where have the questions of his character risen from?

Worried about his ability to adequately focus in the midst of a bevy of cars, women, money and a mild amount of power given to any professional athlete? Due to the fact that NCAA football players are allotted so much attention and celebrity at the “amateur” level, there is not much anyone can offer him that can exceed what he has already seen.

The only thing that would come unnaturally to him is winning at the professional level. This is something that he has yet to experience therefore would have a growing thirst for.

A Super Bowl trophy. Being crowned the league MVP. Being a solid starting quarterback or wide receiver in the NFL. These are the successes that can be offered to Pryor that he has yet to taste. To be put in the same category as a quarterback who refused his chance in the league and squandered any respect he had from players and fans alike is unfair to Pryor to say the least.

Yes, he made some mistakes during his time in the Ohio State football program. But, what superstar in the league has not experienced their fair share of trouble in the trenches? There are only a handful of men, out of the 32 teams in the NFL that have not run into some sort of bump in the road on their way to notoriety. It is life.

An NCAA violation can occur if a student athlete does not face the proper direction before crossing a University street. The rule book is written in hieroglyphics and even though no one should strive to break those rules, everyone should consider the fact that these young men are learning.

As people learn, they stumble and what they do as they capture their balance is what matters the most in the making of a great human being. Pryor bowed out of Ohio State with a target on his back and is making the most of the opportunities presented in his present. He should not apologize for standing tall, admitting his wrongs and moving on with his life.

Something that we all can admit Russell has no recollection of.

After being tossed from Raiders’ comfy household into the cold world of what would come to be a never-ending free agency whirlwind, Russell still had a chance.

Then along came the announcement of his overweight arrivals at workouts for teams such as the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins. Neither of these teams, especially the Redskins, were performing at the height of their desires, but still neither would take the obliterating chance of bringing Russell on-board.

Why? Not only was his sweltering lack of resume an issue. But for a player to turn down a position in any other league in the world to rejoin his NFL brethren, one would hope he would at least verbally and physically condition himself to be worthy. His mentor, John Lucas, severed all ties to him, speechlessly pronouncing him hopeless.

Anyone who may not be entirely familiar with John Lucas’ past, he had a public struggle with illegal drugs. After entering a rehabilitation center, Lucas came out a bigger asset to the league becoming the head coach for a few teams and eventually landing as the assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers.

If a man who has been through this type of shame and struggle can give up on another young athlete who was facing the same irreversible fate as it seemed Lucas would had he not changed paths, who can find hope?

It is grand to hear that Russell is returning to school to finish out his education. However, Terrelle Pryor will not be reaching that same fate. Maybe he will return to Ohio to finish schooling, but it will not be after he is humiliated by multiple coaches’ refusal to take a chance on him.

Whether it is as a wide receiver, a tight end or a quarterback in the NFL, Pryor has a work ethic that far exceeds JaMarcus Russell’s reputation.

Both were drafted by the Oakland Raiders. One in the NFL draft. One in the NFL supplemental draft. One fell far from grace.

One will rise to the occasion.

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