COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – The NCAA took the first five games of Terrelle Pryor’s senior season. Now he’s given up the rest.
The Ohio State quarterback announced through his attorney Tuesday that he would not play for the Buckeyes this upcoming season. He had already been suspended through September for breaking NCAA rules by accepting improper benefits from the owner of a tattoo parlor.
Pryor was reflective about his decision to quit the college game, said his lawyer, Larry James.
“You know how sometimes you have the weight of the world on your shoulders and then something like this takes a little bit off?’ James said. “He’s still only 21.”
The most likely next step for Pryor would be an NFL supplemental draft.
“I would hope so. Also, he would hope so,” said James, who said Pryor was not speaking publicly. “But he’s going to take the next couple of days to get his head together.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer first reported Pryor’s announcement.
It was news that was met with surprisingly happy faces by downtrodden Ohio State fans. After coach Jim Tressel’s forced departure last week, Pryor has served as a lightning rod as the NCAA looked into all aspects of the once-glittering program.
In addition to the acknowledged violations – cash and tattoos to players – are rumors of cars deals for athletes and other potential violations. And Pryor has been in the middle of all that swirling controversy.
Pryor’s announcement comes just eight days after Tressel was forced to resign for knowing about the players’ improper benefits, but not telling any of his superiors.
“(Pryor) did not want to be a distraction to his teammates,” James said. “This is something he came to consider after much thought.”
Ohio State will go before the NCAA’s committee on infractions on Aug. 12.
With Pryor no longer a college football player, he is not obligated to meet with the NCAA. James would not comment on whether Pryor would continue to cooperate with the sanctioning body of college sports.
Ohio State’s athletic director Gene Smith quickly issued a statement wishing Pryor the best.
“We understand Terrelle’s decision and wish him well in this next phase of his life,” Smith said. “We hope he returns to The Ohio State University one day to finish his degree.”
Luke Fickell, who will serve as Ohio State’s interim head coach in place of Tressel this fall, found out about Pryor’s decision on Tuesday night.
“I was notified this evening that Terrelle has decided to pursue a professional career,” Fickell said. “I wish him the best in his pursuits.”
Later Wednesday night, ESPN reported that a former friend of Pryor’s, who requested anonymity, claimed he saw the quarterback signing autographs for money a minimum of 35 to 40 times and that Pryor made between $20,000-$40,000 last year for doing so.
The former friend told ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” that Pryor was paid $500 to $1,000 each time he signed mini football helmets and other gear for a Columbus businessman and freelance photographer, Dennis Talbott.
ESPN reported Talbott twice denied that he ever paid Pryor or any other active Buckeyes student-athlete to sign memorabilia.
Pryor came to Ohio State in March 2008, from Jeannette, Pa., as the most acclaimed high school quarterback prospect in the country. His career will be remembered in his adoptive home state for his three victories in as many tries against archrival Michigan, and victories in the Rose and Sugar bowls.
But it will also be remembered for a series of missteps and controversies that seemed to follow the 6-foot-6, 233-pound quarterback.
On the field, Pryor was a winner. He had a 31-4 record as a starter (starting one bowl game as a wide receiver), rushed for an Ohio State-record for a quarterback 2,164 yards and passed for 6,177 yards. He was often at his best in big games, holding the school record with seven games with at least 300 yards of total offense and 22 games with at least 200.
But there were other moments that kept him from becoming a fan favorite.
He wore “Vick” on an eyeblack patch in honor of Michael Vick in 2009, after the NFL quarterback had been involved in a dogfighting operation. Pryor then infuriated many by saying, “Not everybody’s the perfect person in the world. I mean, everyone kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me, whatever. I think that people need a second chance.”
After Wisconsin beat the Buckeyes in October, handing them their only loss last season, Pryor petulantly said that Ohio State could beat the Badgers nine out of 10 times.
He also has called former Ohio State quarterback and current ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit “a fake Buckeye” for questioning Pryor’s emotional sideline behavior.
Few NFL draft experts consider Pryor to be a ready-for-the-NFL quarterback. With his speed and size, he might be a better fit as a big wide receiver in the mold of Plaxico Burress.
Despite the NFL labor problems, a supplemental draft could still be held this summer, although no one has yet committed to entering it. Former Ohio State star Cris Carter went that route after he lost his senior season due to NCAA infractions involving an agent and he went on to a stellar NFL career.
The Buckeyes have several choices to take Pryor’s place. The most experienced player is fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman, with Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham and talented freshman Braxton Miller competing for the job.
All four got plenty of snaps in spring practice while Pryor missed all the April workouts after having surgery on his right ankle in January. So, Ohio State has already had some time to imagine what its offense will be like without Pryor.
Rusty Miller can be reached at http://twitter.com/rustymillerap