When it comes to the Oakland Raiders these days, there are no more polarizing figures than Terrelle Pryor. He draws staunch critics and avid fans. The critics point to his off field trouble at Ohio State as well as claim his game will not translate to the NFL. His fans point to his physical traits as well as an overall lack of proof by those who would dismiss his game before he ever took an official NFL snap.
These days Pryor's main focus is trying to prove he is worthy of being an NFL quarterback while simultaneously looking to change the perception of him due to the memorabilia selling scandal in which he was involved in college. He is working extremely hard in practice for the on-field opinions and working the media as best he can for the off-field opinions.
In a recent interview with Jim Trotter at Sports Illustrated, he attempted to explain his actions in selling memorabilia while at Ohio State.
"A mistake I made when I was a freshman by selling my pants for $3,000 just took away everything from me," said Pryor. "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... The reason why I did it was to pay my mother's gas bill and some of her rent... It's not like I went there and bought new Jordans... 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."
This statement by Pryor was intended to gain sympathy from those who would criticize him for his actions. But when I read it, I see no accountability. I see a man who still doesn't get it.
He was the prodigal son in Columbus as the nation's top recruit out of high school. He drove a eight different cars from a local dealership during his time there (of which he received no punishment) and Ohio State fans will defend him to the end of the earth so there is really no way he had "everything against [him]" and was "being attacked" as he believed he was. Although, I accept he may have perceived it that way, he should realize by now that simply wasn't the case. It is also naïve of him to think the NCAA was going to be lenient in his particular case because of what he thought of as "God's work."
And while transgressions as a freshman can be chalked up to immaturity, what about the autographs for tattoos thing? And the aforementioned stream of vehicles he drove? Then trying to skip town as a late entry into the NFL supplemental draft after the NCAA was lenient enough to let he and his Buckeye teammates play in a Bowl game and not serve their suspension until the following season?
The best thing Pryor can do at this point is stop playing the ‘woe is me' card and move on. Just say "I was wrong, I served my punishment, and am ready to move on." In that same interview he says he was humbled and has learned from it but his overall lack of accountability in the matter says otherwise.
Pryor would probably be shocked just how easy it is to curry favor with the Raider Nation and how little talking he would need to do. The last memory Raiders fans have of a quarterback their team drafted was that of number one overall deadbeat, JaMarcus Russell. And in that comparison, Pryor is a shooting star.
Russell was the perfect physical specimen at quarterback with a rocket launcher for an arm. But it was his heart that was the problem. Most specifically, he had none. And I mean none.
Pryor has heart. He cares about being a good football player. That alone puts him lightyears ahead of the large sloth of a man the Raiders and their fans would like to forget.
While Russell was missing meetings and showing up late for camp, Pryor is working out six days a week in the offseason.
"He certainly has been here and putting in some hours to make sure that he's getting better," head coach Dennis Allen said recently. "The thing that I've been impressed with is, Terrelle is very, very eager to learn. That's what you look for in a young guy like that. He's hungry for it, and he's working... The thing that I talk to him about is, don't worry about anything other than you just working to get better every single day, in the meeting rooms, on the field, everything you do. At the end of the day the results will take care of themselves."
Pryor is heeding that advice in his work in practice. But it also applies to his public opinion as well. Because if his play on the field impresses, no one will care about some college transgressions.
Raider fans are eager to root for him. He has already lived down the bad memories of JaMarcus Russell simply by showing that he gives a damn. And he has blown it out of the water with his work ethic. If that work translates to success on the field, he will have the largest fan base in sports behind him.
It's hard work. But it is through actions, not words.
As Elbert Hubbard once said "Never explain-- your friends do not need it and your enemies won't believe you anyway."