Originally published on Silver & Black Report on Sept. 4, 2013
We all know that Terrelle Pryor has been named the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders by now, unless of course you're oblivious to what has been going on.
But how did Pryor get to his current situation? It wasn't always an easy path, but Pryor kept his mind set on his goals and was finally able to reach one of them as head coach Dennis Allen named him the starting quarterback this week.
Pryor used his athleticism in high school to become a standout in not only football, but also basketball while attending Jeannette High School in Pennsylvania. There, Pryor led his football team to a 16-0 record and led both the football and basketball teams to the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League and Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association titles, a first for the state of Pennsylvania. He was also the first high school football player in Pennsylvania history to rush for over 4,000 yards while also throwing for over 4,000 yards in his high school career.
Pryor's high school accolades earned him the title as one of the top recruits in the nation. ESPNU had him ranked the number-four overall recruit in the nation in 2008, the highest-ranked quarterback that year.
Pryor elected to attend Ohio State University where he found similar success to high school. There, Pryor led the Buckeyes to a 37-4 record while completing roughly 60 percent of his passes and throwing 57 career touchdowns, tied for the most in Ohio St. history.
But Pryor's college tenure came to an abrupt end towards after his junior season when him and four other Buckeye players were caught up in the infamous "tattoo scandal" in which Pryor received improper benefits from the owner of a tattoo parlor in exchange for championship rings, awards and other memorabilia. As a result, the NCAA decided to suspend Pryor for the first five games of his senior season.
With the suspension looming, Pryor made the decision to withdraw from Ohio State University in June of 2011. The University then mandated a five-year ban of the young quarterback, prohibiting from him having any contact with Ohio State's athletic program, a move that helped make him eligible for the NFL's supplemental draft.
The NFL's Supplemental Draft serves as a way for players to enter the draft if they missed the deadline to declare for the NFL's spring draft, allowing them to get back into football if they may have become ruled ineligible for the upcoming NCAA season for some reason.
Pryor declared for the 2011 Supplemental Draft and held his Pro Day in August of 2011, with personnel from 17 NFL teams in attendance.
On August 22, 2011, late iconic owner and general manager Al Davis made what would be his last draft pick before he passed away: quarterback from Ohio State, Terrelle Pryor. Davis made the selection with a third-round pick. Pryor fit the mold of a classic pick by Davis: big, athletic, fast, strong arm, and a player looking for a second chance to get back on the football field and just play the game he loves.
The NFL decided to mandate a suspension of it's own by enforcing the NCAA's five-game suspension of Pryor, keeping the young quarterback suspended until week six of the 2011 season. Pryor's only appearance on the field for the Raiders that season was for just one play in which he lined up as a wide receiver and came in motion to take the snap on a quarterback-sneak attempt. The play was eventually nullified by a false start penalty.
Entering his first full-offseason with the Raiders, Pryor had to battle personal tragedies as he saw two of his biggest supporters pass away just days apart: life-long mentor Ted Serniak III (July 20) and his father Craig (July 26).
With Carson Palmer holding the starting quarterback position, Pryor didn't see any game action until Dec. 26 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Pryor received one series in the second quarter and handed the ball off twice, followed by a third-down incompletion to go three and out.
Raiders coaches proceeded to use Pryor's athleticism for some trickery the next week against the Panthers as the athletic quarterback took a snap and threw it out wide to Palmer who then found Pryor streaking down the field for a 22-yard reception by the versatile athlete.
With Palmer out due to an injury, Pryor received the nod for his first career NFL start during the 2012 season finale against the San Diego Chargers. Pryor showed his athleticism and ability to move the offense but still struggled to find a groove throwing the ball, finishing 13-28 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. However, he did use his athleticism to add nine rushes for 49 yards and one rushing touchdown.
Pryor almost brought the team back for a come-from-behind victory over the Chargers as he found wide receiver Denarius Moore to bring the team within to just a field goal. But that was as close as the team would pull as they fell 24-21 in the end.
With Palmer gone, Pryor and Flynn entered this offseason with a competition for who would win the starting job. Pryor got off to a rough start during OTA's but made great improvement between then and the beginning of training camp in the end of July. Pryor struggled with his throwing motion during OTA's and mini-camp but was able to find a new throwing motion and improve greatly heading into training camp.
Pryor, who's hard work has never been questioned, spent much of the offseason working with former major-league pitcher Tom House, a widely-regarded throwing expert that also works with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
"I never really knew how to throw a football before. It's coming along. I'm getting way better," Pryor said on his improvement during training camp. "They've got me going in the right direction to be a pretty good quarterback who knows how to throw the ball."
With this new throwing motion, Pryor has been able to reduce the amount of "wobble" on his ball and get it out with more of a spiral. Though he finished just 17/32 throwing throughout preseason, the improvements have shown especially on the shorter throws that he previously struggled with. Pryor has also been a victim of numerous drops by his receivers during preseason.
With such an injured offensive line, Pryor has used his athleticism and turned it into a positive for the Raiders, rushing the ball 14 times for 131 yards. One memorable rush occurred during the team's final preseason matchup against the Seattle Seahawks when Pryor scrambled right and eluded the safety with a nice move to scamper for the first down and 22 yards.
Pryor's ability to learn from his mistakes has been one of his most beneficial attributes this offseason. After making a mistake, he has shown the professionalism to take it in as a data point but not let it effect his play on the field.
During the first preseason game, Pryor got greedy and tried to throw a ball into triple coverage in the end zone instead of just tucking it and trying to reach the first down. The ball was intercepted and a scoring chance was thrown down the drain. But much to the pleasure of the coaching staff, Pryor was able to learn from it and didn't make the mistake the next drive as he threw the ball away instead of forcing it in there.
“At the end of the day, God has given me a chance to play this game and he’s given me an opportunity to learn, and I learned right there,” Pryor said of his interception on the first drive. “As long as you can take one or two things out, and I learned one thing for sure, don’t turn the ball over there, don’t force anything and don’t be greedy. I’ll never do that again and that will never happen to me again.”
Pryor really put in a bid for the starting position during the Raiders week three preseason game against the Chicago Bears. After Flynn struggled to move the ball downfield and throwing a couple of interceptions, Pryor came in and completed 7 of 9 pass attempts for 93 yards, and also accumulated 37 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground. Head coach Dennis Allen certainly took note of the spark provided by his young quarterback.
“I think obviously we have to take a look at it. I think when you look at it I don’t think Matt played well in this game. Obviously, I thought Terrelle came in and gave us a spark. I thought he played well in the game," Allen said of his quarterbacks following the game. "I think that’s something that we have to go and look at it. I’m not going to make any decision on anything, obviously, tonight. I want to get a chance to go back and look at the tape and see how things went. But it was obvious that Terrelle gave us a little bit of spark tonight.”
Pryor finished the preseason 17/32 throwing the ball with one touchdown and two interceptions, along with 131 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.
Pryor appears to be starting the next chapter of his life, the chapter in which he is the starting quarterback of the Oakland Raiders. Now the question is how long will this chapter be, and how will it end? It will be interesting to see how it pans out.
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