- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Terrelle Pryor is trying to put his past behind him and become a successful NFL quarterback. But he's not finished talking about what happened at Ohio State.
In an interview with SI.com's Jim Trotter, the disgraced former Buckeyes star and current Oakland Raider offered a new perspective on why he sold his memorabilia for cash and favors, which eventually helped lead to the downfall of coach Jim Tressel and NCAA problems for the program.
Pryor was suspended for the first five games of last season and then decided to enter the supplemental NFL draft. He was later banned from associating with the school for five years.
"The reason why I did it was to pay my mother's gas bill and some of her rent," Pryor told Trotter. "She was four months behind in rent, and the (landlord) was so nice because he was an Ohio State fan. He gave her the benefit of the doubt and she said, 'My son will pay you back sometime if you just let me pay you back during my work sessions.'
"She ended up losing her job, and she and my sister lived there. Let me remind you it was freezing cold in November, December, and she's using the oven as heat. That's what I did as a kid. I was telling the NCAA, 'Please, anything that you can do. I gave my mother this so my sister wouldn't be cold, so my mother wouldn't be cold.' They didn't have any sympathy for me.
"It's not like I went there and bought new Jordans. It's documented. Whenever I write my book the proof will be in there, the receipt that the money I gave my mother was to pay the electric and heat bill. The truth is going to come out one day when the time is right. I don't think I deserved (being punished) in that way, because of the reason I was doing it. I felt like I was doing God's work in a way, and I was getting driven into the ground."
Your heart would have to be constructed of stone not to feel some sympathy for a kid trying to pay the rent and heating bill for his mother and sister. And we all know that the system is stacked against college athletes, who make millions for their schools and see little besides tuition in return.
But is Pryor really credible? One of the key parts of the Ohio State scandal involved Pryor and other players receiving tattoos in exchange for memorabilia. Unless body ink contains some heating ability I'm not aware of, it's hard to see how that helped his family. (Or, just possibly, Pryor has found the solution to our energy crisis: tattoo power!)
And remember this ESPN story that alleged Pryor made as much as $40,000 signing autographs from 2009-10? Was that "God's work?" Just how much was that rent and heating bill, anyway?
There's more from Pryor in the interview.
"It was humbling," he said. "A mistake I made when I was a freshman by selling my pants for $3,000 just took away everything from me. I was just driven into the ground. I was the worst person in the world. My face popped up on the screen, and it seemed like I was the only one who did anything. I was the only one who was getting attacked.
"At that point last year, I'm 21 and it just felt like everything was against me, like I can't do anything right. I did something to help somebody else out, and I end up getting into trouble. I understand. I shouldn't have sold the stuff and taken $3,000. But I was kind of in a place where I didn't understand why this is happening to me -- especially for the reason that I did it."
Again, there's at least a glimmer of something here with which we can emphasize. What Pryor and others did, selling their Ohio State rings, jerseys and other memorabilia -- things they earned, by the way, and which the school is more than happy to handsomely profit from -- is not the worst crime in the world, especially compared to some of the other scandals we've seen in college football in the past year alone.
Yet Pryor knew what he was doing was wrong and that it would hurt Ohio State. He often seemed like he felt bigger than the program. He admitted in the SI.com interview that "I had some type of ego with me" during his college days.
Pryor is not a super villain. He may have had some legitimate and understandable reasons for some of the rules he broke at Ohio State. Hopefully, he learned some important lessons.
But Buckeyes fans would like him to just go away. And the prospect of him writing a book, which he mentioned in the interview, has got to be highly unsettling for Ohio State supporters.