COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)— After a week of criticism and second-guessing, Terrelle Pryor felt as if a cool, fresh breeze had blown out all the things that troubled him.
Pryor passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, accounting for 343 yards of total offense in No. 18 Ohio State’s 38-7 victory over Minnesota Oct. 24.
The numbers—and the result—were in stark contrast to what happened seven days earlier. In a shocking 26-18 loss at Purdue, Pryor had looked confused, petulant and unnerved. He threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball away two times.
|BACK ON TRACK—Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) steps up and into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown run against Minnesota during third quarter action Oct. 24, in Columbus, Ohio. Pryor passed for tw=o touchdowns and ran for another.
An onslaught of vicious reviews followed, from media, Ohio State fans and from other observers.
Pryor said he learned from that firestorm that he can’t do everything.
“I used the resources I had. I used the offensive line and I used my receivers,” said Pryor, frequently criticized for trying to do too much by himself. “It meant a lot to me that my teammates supported me all week.”
It wasn’t just teammates who supported him.
“(I’m) trying to mentor him and get him through ‘life in the spotlight,’ which I’ve been through,” Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James said of his relationship with Pryor, whom he’s been trading text messages and phone calls with for the past few months.
James is helping Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor learn how to handle everything that comes with being a celebrity athlete.
James said he has been speaking to Pryor on the phone in recent weeks to try to help him deal with celebrity at a young age. James knows something about that, since he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated under the headline “The Chosen One” while he was still in high school in Akron, Ohio.
“Being that No. 1 guy, how do you adjust to it and how do you get through it and still perform at a high level?” James said. “Sometimes it can be very difficult on [a young athlete]. I’m trying to be that guy who can really help him get through a lot of situations which he’s never seen before but now he’s seeing and understanding.”
|HANDLING HIS BUSINESS—LeBron James throws down two against the Dallas Mavericks Oct. 20 at the Petersen Events Center on the University of Pittsburgh campus. James scored 12 points in the Cavaliers 99-66 exhibition game win.
Adding to the pressure surrounding Pryor, his high school coach in Jeannette, Pa., said last week that Ohio State’s offense is not maximizing Pryor’s abilities. In a story which first appeared on ESPN.com, Ray Reitz said his former charge looks like “a robot” in Ohio State’s offense.
Pryor made a surprise appearance before reporters on Oct. 21 and appeared more relaxed than he had in interviews previously. He readily answered questions and spoke with conviction about the problems he has encountered.
“I came here to be a quarterback, and for the rest of the season, we’re going to be pretty darn good,” the 20-year-old said. “I don’t know why [Reitz] would say something like that. I wouldn’t trade where I’m at right now.”
Another Cleveland Cavaliers star, center Shaquille O’Neal, also had words of encouragement for Pryor after Cleveland lost to the Boston Celtics in an exhibition game last Wednesday night.
Talking about his first visit to Columbus, O’Neal said, “It’s a very energetic crowd. I’m familiar with Ohio State football, of course. I know they’re always up there [in the rankings]. I just want to tell the quarterback to keep his head up. I saw that they’re getting on him the last two games. Keep your head up, young man, and try to get this football team back on track.”
Pryor said the bad game at Purdue had helped open his eyes.
“That opened me up to the world and opened me up to myself and who I am as a person,” Pryor said. “I think maybe that was the best thing to happen to us last week. Maybe we’ll learn from it. We’re having real good practices, and we’re just trying to get the fans back on our side.”
James said someone asked him to speak with Pryor.
“Well, I’ve known him for a few years, but our relationship started maybe a few months ago, when I was contacted on if it was possible for me to reach out to the kid,” James said. “It was a no-brainer of course. Our relationship has grown within the last couple of months. I try to keep up on him on game days. I wish him luck and throughout the week.”
Now 24, James is in his seventh season in the NBA. He was one of the most acclaimed high school athletes of all time, then became an icon through both his abilities on the court and his marketing acumen. James has made few missteps in his professional and business careers.
He said that when he speaks to Pryor, he speaks from experience.
“At the end of the day, there’s a lot more than just football and basketball,” he said. “Because I know. I’ve seen it all. From a prep kid, I was very high [in terms of celebrity], and then I was a professional. So I’ve seen it all.”
Pryor said he has been affected by all the attention he has gotten.
“Let’s be real. If any of us were the quarterback at Ohio State, and you’ve got all these people around you, you’re sort of like a superstar,” he said. “And you start maybe thinking too much maybe of yourself and losing your head a little bit and losing focus.”