This is a story about the dark side of recruiting, a story about an 18-year-old kid making the biggest decision of his life, only it doesn’t really seem like it’s his decision anymore.
This is a story about four universities wooing that young player, each trying to lure him to their respective campus. Millions of people across the country differ in their opinions of this player’s situation, though most have never met him. This is the story of Terrelle Pryor.
To say that there aren’t many athletes possessing Pryor’s natural gifts is an understatement.
He is a top-30 caliber player nationally in both football and basketball, and can race down both surfaces with a 4.4 second 40-yard dash. Football coaches have projected him at any number of positions, from wide receiver to offensive tight end to virtually every skill position on defense.
The Jeannette, PA native’s skill set is so rare that it is debated whether he would be better suited to play safety, given his ability to cover so much ground, or defensive end, given his huge frame. Pryor decided long ago, however, that he would play quarterback in college, leading to a feeding frenzy among programs likening him to Vince Young.
Now, over a year since he was named Rivals.com National Junior of the Year and a week since National Signing Day, Pryor remains unsigned, still deciding between four of those teams: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Oregon.
While he has until early April to make a final decision, the spotlight intensifies with each passing day, and what was once The Terrelle Pryor recruitment is now The Terrelle Pryor Saga. He is now portrayed as a prima donna, just another punk kid soaking up way more than his allotted 15 minutes and milking the limelight for all it’s worth.
Of course, the naysayers don’t actually know Terrelle Pryor. Most don’t realize that the decision making process is complicated for this recruit as he, unlike most prospects, has not had the time to make his five allotted official visits. The day after he took his high school football team to a state title, he jumped right into basketball season.
It seems no one understands the pressure he is under.
As the last fish left in the 2008 recruiting class pond, Pryor is bombarded ever more heavily with pitches.
Jim Tressel and Rich Rodriguez are stalking him at basketball games and Joe Paterno’s Penn State staff has virtually set up shop in his living room. The young player has literally nowhere to run and only constant attention to face.
Making matters worse for Terrelle Pryor is, well, Terrelle Pryor. As his high school coach, Ray Reitz, said, “Terrelle could run for governor…he doesn’t like to tell people ‘No.’”
Indeed, how could he? With four great schools offering him the chance of a lifetime and investing a year of effort convincing him to choose their outfit, it isn’t exactly easy for a kid three months shy of his high school diploma to tell all but one of them, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Bu if Terrelle Pryor is having trouble making a decision, it seems there are millions of people who’d love to make it for him. Peruse any internet message board and you’ll find posts by the hundred all about where he should go and why.
Worse yet, these pale in comparison to the posts that argue where he shouldn’t go, or the posts accusing him of accepting gifts from someone’s program. Already Michigan fans have accused Ohio State of paying for Pryor’s signature via local businessman Ted Sarniak.
And even Pryor’s father has made no secret about where his loyalties lie; Craig Pryor wants his son to go to Penn State.
Suddenly, the ball seems not lie in the quarterback’s hands after all. Pryor has admitted that he will be visiting Happy Valley mostly to appease his father.
While it’s Terrelle Pryor who’ll be stepping foot on a college campus next year, there is no shortage of expectations that will accompany him on the journey.
Want to know the truth? In all likelihood, Terrelle doesn’t even know for sure where he’d like to sign, or when he’ll make the final decision. But that hasn’t stopped a whole nation from guessing, from badgering, cajoling, conjecturing, from interfering in any number of ways.
Although Pryor’s decision to continue his recruitment is unusual, this story is not. Every year college football fans spend an inordinate amount of time trying to persuade high school kids where they should spend the next four years of their lives, where they should get their educations, where they should call their homes.
The entire process is a monster of our own creation.
As USC mega-freshman Joe McKnight lamented while to trying to make his college choice, “These people have no right to tell me where to go.”
But that hasn’t stopped them from trying.
So the next time you hear Terrelle Pryor’s name, try to refrain from judgment. Let him take his time and let him make his own decision. Most importantly, let him make the decision with his own interests at heart.
This won’t be the last kid to undergo the excruciating process of recruitment, but that doesn’t mean a nation of strangers should be allowed to influence the most important choice of his life.
This is Terrelle Pryor’s story; let him write it.