Friday, June 3, 2011
Godfather thinks Terrelle Pryor will stay
ESPN.com news services
JEANNETTE, Pa. -- Terrelle Pryor once chose Ohio State over every other big-name college football program in the country.
His godfather believes Pryor will pick the school again.
Willie Burns, the legal guardian Pryor lived with while he was in high school, said Friday that he's confident the embattled quarterback will return for his senior season -- as abbreviated as it might be -- and not apply for the NFL's supplemental draft.
Terrelle Pryor's future muddied this week after coach Jim Tressel's resignation amid a widening probe.
"I think he will stay in school," Burns said. "He likes football. Only time will tell. He could change his mind in a minute.
"But he if he does leave, somebody done pressured his butt -- bad."
Pryor's future with the Buckeyes muddied this week following coach Jim Tressel's resignation amid a widening NCAA investigation into possible violations by the school. Pryor has already been suspended for the first five games next season for selling memorabilia for cash and tattoos, and the star quarterback could face additional penalties pending the outcome of an NCAA probe into his use of cars.
Pryor and his mother, Thomasina, were recently interviewed in Columbus, Ohio, by an NCAA investigator about his use of loaner vehicles, a source close to the situation told ESPN's Joe Schad on Thursday.
If Pryor received benefits deemed not available to the general public or deemed as preferential treatment, the NCAA could extend the five-game suspension the quarterback received at the end of last year for extra benefits received from a tattoo-parlor owner in Columbus.
An attorney for Pryor, Larry James of Columbus, said that Pryor has on occasion in the past three years utilized "three or four loaner vehicles" from the same dealer, Auto Direct Columbus, Inc. -- not up to eight, as has been reported.
"Now, does the public get the same deal? I have not done an audit on that," James said. "What I can tell you is the owner of that dealership will tell you that (Pryor) gets treated like every Tom, Dick and Harry."
Burns said he spoke to Pryor two days ago. And while they did not discuss specifics about Pryor's football future, Burns believes his godson intends to play for the Buckeyes this fall.
"I asked him how he was doing and how is he coming along," said the 63-year-old Burns, recently hospitalized after a minor stroke. "He says he's just trying to get all this out of his head and get on with his business. I don't like to bring up the sports to him. He's got enough people asking him questions. If he wants to talk about it, then I'm open-hearted to him."
Like many residents of this tight-knit town in the rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania, Burns has been troubled by Pryor's portrayal as a villain and the one most responsible for Tressel's stunning downfall after a 10-year, trophy-filled run at Ohio State.
Pryor isn't without faults, and has made his share of mistakes. However, Burns doesn't think the blame should be aimed at Pryor.
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"I hate to see Tressel go. He's a good man and a good coach," said Burns, who is also a godfather to Ohio State running back Jordan Hall, one of Pryor's high school teammates. "The way I heard it, this has been going on for a while at Ohio State with this tattoo guy.
"It's just bad that Terrelle went over there and got involved. I know he likes tattoos and all this. I don't know what's all behind it. We haven't talked about any of that."
Pryor has not spoken publicly since leading Ohio State to a 31-26 win in the Allstate Sugar Bowl over Arkansas. The NCAA allowed Pryor, offensive lineman Mike Adams, running back Dan Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas to play in the game despite finding they had sold rings, trophies and apparel in 2009. All five must sit out OSU's first five games next season.
Pryor's silence -- and Ohio State's scandal -- have prompted rampant speculation that his days behind center for the Buckeyes are over. He promised Tressel he would come back and play as a senior, but now that the sweater-vested coach is no longer around, it's hard to predict what he'll do next.
The NFL's labor situation only complicates matters.
If Pryor stays in school, he could finish a stellar career (he's 31-4 as a starter), repair his spotted public image and perhaps improve his chances of being one of the top picks in next year's draft. If he applies for the league's supplemental draft -- assuming there is one -- he would break his pledge to Tressel and enter a pro game many believe he's not yet prepared to play.
Knowing the 21-year-old as he does, Pryor's high school coach is guessing that Ohio State will have No. 2 for one more year.
"He's an unbelievable competitor and a tremendous leader," said Ray Reitz, who won a state title at Jeannette High with Pryor in 2007. "He's always wanted to show people what he can do, and I think he's determined to see this through. It's an unfortunate thing, what's gone on. He's a good kid. He's got a good heart. He's not a vicious kid. Half of the stuff people are saying isn't true.
"He's made some mistakes. Who hasn't? But to link him to ruining the Ohio State program is completely out of touch."
Sitting on his front porch, Burns recalled Pryor's glory days at Jeannette -- the incredible performances, the recruiting circus, the state title. He's heard the critics who believe Pryor should have stayed closer to home and gone to Penn State.
But Burns is certain Pryor made the right decision, and hopes his godson makes another one.
"I hope he does stick it out at Ohio State," he said. "The way the NFL is going now, I'm glad he's staying there because you don't know what the devil they're going to do. When he was looking at colleges, he had so many of them that I told him which ever one you choose, I'll back you 100 percent.
"I still think he made the right choice."
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN's Joe Schad was used in this report.