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Commentary: Pryor’s flaws exaggerated by NCAA’s flawed system

Andy Gottesman / Multimedia editor

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Terrelle Pryor stepped onto Ohio State’s campus with a lot of baggage — now, he has left with even more.

When he arrived in Columbus, a recruiting saga and reported attitude problems followed him from Jeannette High School in Jeannette, Pa. Those drawbacks were outweighed, at least in part, by his enormous potential as a quarterback.

Widely regarded as the top recruit in the class of 2008, Pryor faced unparalleled expectations even by OSU standards. Three years later, Pryor is leaving campus with a 31-4 record, two BCS bowl game MVPs and a 3-0 record against Michigan.

Expectations met? Not to the misguided Buckeye faithful.

Pryor leaves Columbus more loathed now than at any previous point during his playing career – a span in which some believed he should have played at the wide receiver position rather than at quarterback.

Inexplicably, Pryor is being blamed for the ousting of former coach Jim Tressel, and bringing down the program he helped elevate.

Just like countless other athletes — both at Ohio State and across the country — Pryor took improper benefits.

Under the NCAA’s sham of a system, he’s regarded as immoral and corrupt because he tried to take advantage of the image that he worked so hard to build.

The university, athletic sponsors, television stations and other businesses made millions off his No. 2 jersey. Compare that money to his relatively small athletic scholarship — it’s hard to blame him for violating NCAA rules.

Sure, Pryor came into the program ignorant and immature. As teammates will attest to, his attitude changed thanks largely to the guidance of Tressel and his coaching staff.

After all, isn’t that what college is about – shedding immaturity and growing into an adult?

Selling memorabilia or allegedly receiving discounts on cars doesn’t reflect poorly on his character. His image takes a hit only because of the NCAA’s hypocritical rules and the media’s rush to demonize anyone who breaks them.

Pryor’s biggest shortcoming is his lack of media savvy. He couldn’t eloquently explain why he wrote “Vick” – for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and dog slayer Mike Vick – on his eye black for a game against Navy during his sophomore year.

He went to Twitter to attack critics, such as Kirk Herbsreit, whom Pryor termed a “fake Buckeye.” This prevailing thought amongst members of the Buckeye football program is probably better left inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Still, on June 1, tight end Jake Stoneburner tweeted, “I’ll support TP through thick & thin.”

His teammates continued to treat him as family, and Pryor grew into a leader of that family. Just imagine where the team would have been without him last season?

Bailing OSU out on the road against Iowa and winning the Sugar Bowl MVP is only enough to win the respect of his closest peers, apparently.

To outsiders, Pryor is forever painted as a childish, punk quarterback whose actions tore the reputation of the entire OSU program down.

That’s a shame because Pryor has come a long way, otherwise.  

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