High School / Jeannette High School's two-sport superstar Terrelle Pryor
Jeannette coach Ray Reitz was talking some football over lunch recently when he asked "You ever been in an earthquake?"
This certainly isn't your usual coach-to-reporter talk. Maybe it was just Reitz thinking about his stomach after that school cafeteria steak hoagie and fries.
Then again, the subject was Terrelle Pryor. And when trying to describe this wonder of an athlete, it's best to think of something that shakes you.
"I was in a California earthquake and, when it happens and everything starts shaking, you don't say anything," Reitz said. "You just look at the guy next to you and it's like, 'This is an earthquake.'
"That's the way it is with Terrelle. He does things where you don't say a word. You just look at the person next to you, and it's like, 'Did he really just do that?' "
Terrelle Pryor is a senior quarterback-defensive back at Jeannette and begins his final high school football season in two days. His past plays have been memorable, like the time last season when he leaped over a tackler at the 5-yard line and landed 3 yards in the end zone. Or the time when, as a defender on an extra point, he timed the snap perfectly, leaped over the center's head, landed on his feet and pretty much stole the ball off the kicking tee.
Greatness also is predicted for his future, with at least two scouting services ranking him the No. 1 high school player in the country.
But what makes this 6-foot-6, 227-pound, 18-year-old so unusual is his take on sports. It's a double take.
While more and more youth athletes specialize in one sport, Pryor talks out of both sides of his mouth. He also is an outstanding basketball player and has spoken many times in the past about playing football and basketball in college. He is the most heavily recruited basketball-football player in Southwestern Pennsylvania since Tom Clements, a 1971 Canevin graduate who narrowed his choices to Notre Dame for football and North Carolina for basketball. He chose Notre Dame and played quarterback for the Fighting Irish.
"I'm not changing. I'm playing both," Pryor said.
Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Texas, Florida and West Virginia are some of the schools courting him for both sports -- and telling him they will allow him to play both.
The naysayers claim he shouldn't. They say he can't, simply because it is too hard to play football and basketball at the highest level, especially when you're a quarterback.
But one athlete who had rousing success with the football-basketball combo believes Pryor should definitely give it a try.
"It can still be done these days," said Charlie Ward. "My advice to him would be, if he wants to do both in college, I would tell him to try it."
Ward excelled in both sports at Florida State. Like Pryor, he was a quarterback and won the 1993 Heisman Trophy, given annually to the best college football in the country. After college, Ward played 11 seasons in the NBA.
Ward is now an assistant basketball coach at Westbury Christian High School in Houston.
"Most people want you to choose football or basketball to see how you can develop in that one sport," said Ward, who was 6-2, 185 pounds when he finished his NBA career in 2005. "But my whole deal was, 'I'm a team guy.' I wanted to be loyal to my basketball teammates.
"You have to find a college where they have allowed guys to play both sports. If you're a good athlete, colleges will tell you what you want to hear in high school. But once they have you there, they might say, 'Well, we think you should concentrate on one sport.' "
Pryor is rated higher in football than basketball. Some basketball scouting services rank the guard-forward among the top 50 players in the country.
"If he focused on basketball, he could easily be in the top 25 in the country," said Bob Gibbons, a nationally renowned basketball scout for All Star Sports (N.C.).
Gibbons has been in the basketball scouting business for decades and has watched Pryor play.
"He's one of the few who can play both," Gibbons said. "But it's so hard. Almost all of the major [college] conferences might have a player or two who does both football and basketball. But most of the time in basketball, these players are not much more than a throw-in to the team. They don't play big roles.
"The schools he's considering probably will go to a major bowl game, and he won't join the basketball team until mid-January. He'll have to try and fit into the team then.
"My advice to him for college would be to choose the sport that your heart is set on and try to become as good as you can in that sport."
Ward said he chose Florida State partly because coach Bobby Bowden was a father figure and because Bowden had let quarterback Brad Johnson play both football and basketball for the Seminoles before Ward.
Ward said the hardest part of playing both sports was physical.
"Just the toll it takes on your body," Ward said. "If I had to do it over again, I would train differently -- and eat differently, just because of what I know now."
Ward said he would eat healthier and would not have lifted weights with his legs.
"I would do no squats or cleans because that messes with your knees too much," Ward said. "People are going to say you need that explosiveness in your legs, but there are other ways nowadays to get that without lifting the weights."
Pryor already is well-built, and Reitz and Jeannette coaches marvel at his leg strength. A few weeks ago, Jeannette's players were running 40-yard dashes. Pryor ran a few times and then decided to try.
"I blinked, and he was done," Reitz said. "I looked at the stopwatch, and it was 4.3. I checked with my assistant coach, and he had the same time."
Pryor was the Post-Gazette Player of the Year in 2006 after leading Jeannette to the WPIAL Class AA title. He had 1,732 yards passing and 1,636 yards rushing.
In basketball, he averaged 20.8 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.
"Any workout he could make with us this spring and summer, he was there," said Jeannette basketball coach Jim Nesser. "I just think he wants to be the best there is. That drives him. That and winning."
Pryor's recruitment is one of the hottest topics in WPIAL sports. He says he has narrowed his choices to 10, but when asked if Ohio State, West Virginia, Michigan and Penn State were his finalists, Pryor said, "That's close, but there might be a couple more."
Pryor claims he doesn't have a favorite, and he also claims no one will have a big influence on his decision.
"I won't listen to anybody. It's not their life, it's mine," Pryor said. "My dad won't even tell me what to do. The only thing I'll listen to is if someone wants to try and coach me, or teaches me in school."
First Published August 28, 2007 9:10 pm