Cook: Pryor worth gambling on

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A few players came out of the NFL supplemental draft since it began in 1977 and went on to have strong pro careers. Quarterback Bernie Kosar. Wide receiver Cris Carter. Nose tackle Jamal Williams.

Terrelle Pryor will be the next.

The NFL team that takes Pryor is going to get a star.

It won't be the Steelers. They won't reach out to Pryor for the same reason they won't touch Plaxico Burress. They don't need a player who is considered a character risk, not after their problems with Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes.

That's just as well for Pryor. He needs a fresh start in the NFL, as far away from his hometown of Jeannette as possible and as far away from Columbus, Ohio, as possible, for that matter. He's considered a villain in Columbus for bringing down the storied football program at The Ohio State University. That others were bigger villains -- how about former coach Jim Tressel for one -- hardly matters. You know what they say about perception being reality.

But Pryor is going to make some NFL club very happy.

"Terrelle Pryor will be a great -- not a good quarterback -- a great quarterback in the National Football League," agent Drew Rosenhaus said the other day.

I'm not sure I agree with that assessment. It's just as likely Pryor will be a great safety or a great wide receiver. He's so physically gifted he could play a lot of positions. He could play the "Slash" role better than the Steelers' Kordell Stewart once did, and Stewart was pretty good. I'm also not sure about Rosenhaus' contention that Pryor will be a first-round pick in the supplemental draft, which probably will be scheduled for late July, after the NFL lockout ends. Teams will be able to put in a bid for Pryor with the highest bid getting his rights. The club that does get him loses the corresponding pick in the regular draft next spring. It's hard to imagine any team giving up a No. 1 for him. But a No. 2? Certainly a No. 3. I would do that in a heartbeat.

Pryor's physical skills are off the chart. That's beyond debate. It's the character issue with him that's in question. He broke any number of NCAA rules at Ohio State by accepting improper benefits such as cash and discounted tattoos. ESPN reported last week that a former friend said Pryor made as much as $40,000 annually by signing autographs. The NCAA suspended him for the first five games of the upcoming season -- it would have been his senior season -- and could have come down harder on him if he hadn't said he was leaving school to enter the supplemental draft.

I'm not going to try to defend Pryor's actions. He broke the rules and was punished for it, as he should have been. Losing his senior season is a tough blow for his NFL chances, at least as a quarterback. He really needed that extra year to help his development.

But I have a hard time thinking Pryor is a bad guy. He hardly seems incorrigible.

"This experience that he has gone through will galvanize him and make him a better person, a stronger person," Rosenhaus said.

Now there's something we agree on.

I have a bigger problem with the adults who led Pryor down the path to entitlement. It goes back to his days at Jeannette when they would ask him for his autograph. A high school kid! How pathetic is that? How pathetic are they? It continued when the announcement of his choice of colleges was nationally televised. It went out of control at Ohio State where, if a Sports Illustrated story is true, Tressel not only lied about violations in his program to his bosses and NCAA investigators but also created an environment in which the violations were encouraged. He's a much bigger villain than Pryor, although many Ohio State fans will never admit that. It's much easier to blame a greedy kid than it is to blame the unethical coach who went 9-1 against Michigan.

Pryor, who turns 22 Monday, apologized at a brief news conference this week for his part in the Ohio State scandal.

"One of my goals is to be the best person I can possibly be off the field," he said.

Pryor has much work ahead of him, as a football player and as a person. I won't bet against him. He's well worth the risk for any NFL team.


Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com . Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.


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