Patrick Maks is back, this time with a take on a former Ohio State player who has recently been in the news due to lengthy profile in Sports Illustrated. Patrick asks, was it all worth it?
Before he’d ever taken a snap as a college quarterback, Terrelle Pryor received a standing ovation on a brilliantly sunny day against Youngstown State in Ohio State’s cakewalk of an opener in 2008. Months before that, Sports Illustrated called his college decision “the most anticipated signing day announcement in history.”
Talk about hype. A look at just the numbers suggests he lived up to the most of it.
Key word: most.
From 2008-20010, Pryor helped guide the Buckeyes to a share of three straight Big Ten Championships. In the process, he won the OSU’s first Rose Bowl since 1997 and was named its MVP for his 22-for-37, 266-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 26-17 win against Oregon. The following year, he led his team to a 12-1 season that ended in a thrilling 31-26 win against Arkansas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Again, he was voted the MVP of his second straight BCS bowl win.
Perhaps most notably, Ohio State won 31 of 35 games featuring Pryor as a starter, and — maybe most importantly to Buckeyes fans — he never lost to Michigan. In fact, Pryor and Company dominated them, outscoring them 100-24 over that span.
That alone should’ve been enough to make him a hero in Columbus for years to come. But after his part in selling Buckeyes memorabilia to a Columbus tattoo parlor and being the center (fair or not) of a scandal that virtually toppled a previously stable, 10-year dynasty under former coach Jim Tressel, Pryor, is looked at as anything but.
At 18-years-old, Pryor was touted, hailed and almost worshipped as a messiah-like figure that could finally end OSU’s BCS struggles that began with a 41-14 curb stomping at the hands of Florida.
Arguably, for the most part, he was exactly that. But he came with a price.
Now, almost a year since Tressel was nudged into resigning, it’s fair to wonder this: was Terrelle Pryor worth it?
If you’re looking for an answer on whether the black eye Pryor and others left on OSU was worth the success the program achieved during its tenure, you’re in the wrong place because I don’t have an answer. I’m just really stumped. But I can tell you what perceptions are out there.
On one hand, Pryor helped maintain and elevate a level of excellence that few college football programs ever see. While to say he alone was the reason OSU won three straight Big Ten titles would be ignorant, denying his role in those championship runs would be equally naïve. When it comes down to the numbers and the win-loss column, Pryor literally did everything and more any reasonable fan base could ever ask for. From that logical, “just the facts, ma’am” perspective, it’s hard to say he wasn’t worth the headache. Like the way he often dominated on the field, the teams Pryor played for were just as impressive.
The only thing he and OSU fell short of was a national championship. Like the teams he played for, they were great, but never elite. That, coupled with the chaos that was this time last year, makes some think Pryor should’ve taken his talents elsewhere.
Pryor wasn’t brought to OSU to win just Big Ten Championships; the expectation was that he was here to win a national championship. He even said it himself. In that light, he failed and the closest he ever came to college football immortality was a one-loss season in 2010, which, ironically, thanks to Pryor and a number of other teammates, doesn’t exist as far as the NCAA is concerned.
Is that a ridiculously high standard? Oh yeah. Is Pryor solely to blame for harming the university’s reputation? Absolutely not and it’s sad that he’s looked at as the main scapegoat in the whole “tat-gate” scandal.
But it’s not like Pryor didn’t do anything to help bring people’s expectations back to reality with his cocky rhetoric, though, to his credit, he did his best to live up to the hype. I think it’s fair to say he wanted to be remembered in Buckeye lore long after his final game in the Horseshoe.
Unfortunately for Pryor, he got exactly what he wanted in all the wrong ways.
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)