Terrelle Pryor was playing basketball at Bob Gibbons’ Tournament of Champions in Chapel Hill, N.C., when he learned that Rivals.com named him the nation’s No. 1 football prospect from the Class of 2008.
Pryor took the news in stride.
“It’s another step in making myself want to work hard,” Pryor said. “It’s a good achievement on my part. There’s times you’ll say, ‘I’m the No. 1 player in the country.’ But you can’t say that without working hard.”
The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder from Jeannette is regarded as the most coveted two-sport prospect in the country. Pryor still hasn’t decided whether he’ll play football or basketball in college. For now, he wants to play both.
It wouldn’t be such a daunting proposition if the dual-threat quarterback didn’t have so much to learn about playing the position. His basketball game is more polished, as evidenced by Scout.com naming Pryor the nation’s top small forward prospect two years ago. (Scout.com now ranks Pryor the No. 30 player in the Class of ’08).
“I go to these tournaments in basketball and score 30 points a game on the top basketball players,” Pryor said. “I can still play basketball and always will be able to play basketball. It just depends on which one will get me the furthest and in which one I can make some money.”
Not that it’s unprecedented.
Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward played both at Florida State, then played point guard in the NBA. Ronald Curry played both at North Carolina, and plays receiver in the NFL. Pryor is talented enough to play both sports in college and choose between them later.
There is, however, the issue of spreading himself too thin. If Pryor plays in a bowl game, for example, he’ll miss the basketball non-conference schedule. If he plays in the NCAA tourney, he’ll miss most of spring football drills.
“If your heart’s in playing both sports, you have to do that. That’s what I’m going to do,” Pryor said. “Most of the coaches I talk to say they’ll give me (time) off. They all say they’ll work around it. You have to see which one is lying. I’ll find out who’s lying and who’s not eventually.”
Pryor already has gone unpunished for attending only two football camps (QBU and adidas) this spring. He skipped the Scout.com, Nike and Metro Index camps, considered must-stops by coaches on the recruiting circuit. (Pryor said college coaches told him it wasn’t necessary).
For Pryor, the possibilities are endless. Already the most heavily recruited two-sport star in Western Pennsylvania since the days of Joe Montana and Tom Clements, Pryor has a strong shot at being selected to play in both the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the McDonald’s All-American Game next year.
The month of May has had his head spinning, with dozens of major-college coaches visiting the tiny town of Jeannette to see him in person. With 70-plus scholarship offers – he has lost count – Pryor has pretty much ruled out any coach who didn’t come to visit him at school.
“I was expecting them. If they wanted me, I was expecting them to come,” Pryor said. “They were all sharp. They’re going to tell you everything you want to know. That’s when you’ve got to start doing research and find out on your own.”
Pryor’s candor can be mistaken for arrogance, but it’s necessary to remember that he doesn’t turn 18 until June 20. This is all very heady stuff for any high school student.
“Of course, I didn’t know what to expect because I’d never gone through the process,” Pryor said. “It was just an experience I wish every kid could have. I got to meet all the big-time coaches. I talked to a lot of reporters. It’s a fun thing. It can get hectic or boring, but it’s also fun.”
Not that every high school player could handle being the center of attention all the time and having people pull him in every direction. Pryor met millionaire coaches ranging from Alabama’s Nick Saban to Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis to Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, and said all of them joked about an unnamed coach whose wish to land a helicopter on the school’s roof was denied. (Rutgers coach Greg Schiano has been rumored to pull such stunts).
“This is the hardest process for a kid to go through,” he said. “They’re all big-time coaches. All the teams are good. They all put players in the NFL. I don’t know who to pick. I have to go over it with my coach. You can’t just pick out 10 teams. You may make a mistake.”
Nevertheless, Pryor plans to sit down with Jeannette coach Ray Reitz and reduce his list to 10 this summer. Pryor hasn’t ruled out anyone, including Pitt, although he might want to go away to escape the hometown pressure.
“I’d like to go to Pitt, but I don’t know yet,” said Pryor, who committed to play basketball for the Panthers in February 2006 but later reneged. “I kind of don’t want to be close to home. I want to go check out the world. I’m not ruling out any school. I’m looking at all my options.”
And they are aplenty.