As soon as Terrelle Pryor wipes all the mud clean off his face, he should smile brightly. The former Ohio State signal caller has new life again – though it’s now stationed in the blackest of holes. The Oakland Raiders selected Pryor in the third round of the NFL’s Supplemental Draft on Monday, making the 6-foot-6-inch, 233-pound quarterback the latest prototypical athlete to don the black and silver.

It didn’t take long for Pryor to go from high school prodigy to collegiate standout to castoff in just three short years. A polarizing Pennsylvania high school career made him a living legend by the time he was 18. He was the best basketball and football player in the state. He could’ve gone to any school in the nation and despite all signs pointing to Michigan University, he stunned the Wolverines by joining their most hated rival. By the time he was 21, he was Ohio State’s star and best player, a preseason All-American selection and a lock for the NFL. A few mismanaged decisions placed him on the black list of the NCAA, thus finally resulting in his entrance into the NFL’s Supplemental Draft on Aug. 22.

Now, after perhaps the longest offseason of his life, Pryor’s relevant again for what he can do on the field instead of off it. The only problem is, he’s now in a situation that isn’t particularly famous for producing on-the-field results. As a Raider, Pryor now has the chance to sit back and observe. Under the tutelage of Head Coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Al Saunders – two men who absolutely {know} offensive football – Pryor could develop quite nicely, if Raiders’ owner Al Davis allows it. The stories of JaMarcus Russell are still fresh in our minds but Pryor’s a different creature.

Russell was only given a few short years to progress before the eject button was pushed but stubbornness, laziness and a sense of entitlement were perhaps Russell’s biggest culprits. Russell was often, perhaps always, out of shape as a Raider. With Pryor, who lettered in two sports while in high school; who made defenders look silly while in college and who just ran a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash at his workout earlier this week, staying in shape (terrific shape) shouldn’t be a problem. Pryor progressed each year as a passer at Ohio State, showing he has the willingness to learn. And while it wasn’t too long ago that Oakland was a complete mess, the Raiders are coming off an 8-8 year, a season where they went 6-0 in their division; things are undoubtedly looking up for Raider Nation.

While the franchise reeks of recent failure, the coaching staff smells of men who know what they’re doing. Both Jackson and Saunders could pretty much coach anywhere, luckily for Pryor, they’ll be coaching him. With the incumbent Jason Campbell entrenched as a starter – at least for this year – Pryor won’t have to be thrown into the fire. He can sit, learn and watch for a season, maybe two and perhaps challenge for a starting position in 2013 or 2014. The 22-year-old still has some growing up to do and although he’s now in Oakland, even the Black Hole is a brighter spot from where he’s coming from.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO