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Tressel: Pryor will be 'scary' to watch with focus only on football

GREENSBURG, Pa. -- On the most unusual of draft days, former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was on a practice field with the Indianapolis Colts.

And the text he got from his once prized pupil, and now fellow exiled Buckeye, Terrelle Pryor, was as simple as it was descriptive. It came at 12:55 p.m. ET, five minutes before Monday's supplemental draft began, and was composed, as Tressel puts it, "of one contraction and one word."

"I'm nervous."

After a roller-coaster nine months, Pryor was left here, at a restaurant near a mall on the Eastern outskirts of Pittsburgh, not far from where he grew up. He first sat at a booth, fidgety enough that he could no longer stand to be around a camera crew assigned to track his day, the swagger of a blue-chip athlete nowhere to be found.

So agent Drew Rosenhaus, whose firm accounted for three of the five people in Pryor's small contingent, took him to an adjacent room to wait for the call. Brother/partner Jason Rosenhaus, Jason Katz, Rosenhaus' vice president, and Pryor adviser Ted Sarniak retreated with them. About 30 minutes after Pryor shot that text off to Tressel, sent around the time he was furiously tapping his right foot to work off nerves, it all came out in a series of screams.

Pryor was, fittingly enough, a Raider.

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Why this particular party, which was moved across the county to avoid crowds, was so small isn't completely clear. But you could surmise it tied to the uneasiness Pryor felt, and fears that he could drop much further than he did, ultimately going in the third round to Oakland.

"I just wasn't sure," he said after emerging from the room, smiling but still seeming a little dizzied from how fast it had all come. "Especially with the five-game suspension, I had a lot of odds against me and I'm thankful for the opportunity to play for the Raiders, one of my favorite teams. I'm glad I'll be wearing silver and black.

"All the odds were against us, the five-game suspension on top of that, I wasn't sure the direction it was going. But I can't do anything but make the best of the selection. I definitely will. I'm looking forward to the opportunity, and I look forward to getting on the field."

Within minutes, plans were being arranged for Pryor to travel to California, with Rosenhaus saying he was confident a deal would be done in time for the quarterback to suit up for practice Tuesday. That would give Pryor almost two full weeks until his five-game suspension would kick in, which is better than having to jump in cold in October, to be sure.

But the mystery remains over what kind of player Pryor will be as a pro. For all his warts, he did throw for 6,177 yards, run for 2,164 yards, compile a 31-4 record, and win three Big Ten titles and two BCS games. He'll have money now, and he's always had fame, so what's left to push him?

"He's the biggest perfectionist I've ever been around," Tressel said, via cell phone from the Colts' practice field. "Football means a great deal to him, his teammates mean a great deal to him, he wants to help a franchise win, and he has one of the biggest hearts of any kid I've been around. There was a lot of pressure on him at Ohio State. We didn't expect him to start as a freshman at Ohio State, but he we needed him and he delivered. He's carried a lot of pressure. He's just a special kid."

Tressel, of course, departed Ohio State just a matter of days before Pryor did, both of them at the center of a major NCAA investigation tied to the quarterback receiving illicit benefits and the coach failing to disclose his knowledge of that.

In the weeks since, the two haven't seen as much of each other, with Pryor working out in South Florida to prepare for the supplemental draft. And that's why Tressel said he was astounded to see what Pryor did when arriving at the quarterback's pro day on Saturday.

"I think it'll be scary to see what he can do for this reason -- watching the progress (on Saturday) after he had just six weeks where all he did was football," Tressel said. "College involves going to class, doing schoolwork, and the social aspects of being that age. Now that he can do football and play quarterback 24-7, and that's really what he wants to do, his development might happen quicker than people think.

"He's as attentive as you can possibly imagine. It means a lot to him. And he's at his best when folks are doubting him and, I think, with the suspension you have that."

Even if Pryor does grow quickly, there's the matter of that suspension and the fact that, if you listen to coach Hue Jackson, the Raiders fully expect to be contending by the time the rookie returns.

For now, Pryor seems to be OK with the prospect that 2011 could be, in essence, the kind of redshirt year he never had in college.

"I've been patient -- very patient -- and now some good things are starting to happen and I gotta take full advantage of the opportunity that I have," Pryor said. "And just believe. It's gonna take more patience, it'll be five games in and there are some great quarterbacks at the Oakland Raiders. I'm gonna try to learn off those guys and fit in as well as I can with the team."

And that will provide the quarterback with a different dynamic than he's had before. For once, he won't be the hotshot.

Is he more famous than all but maybe one or two of his new teammates? Sure. But he'll also have to take a back seat to them. Or at least at first he will, and it's not something Pryor has often dealt with.

"I think it'll be a breath of fresh air for him," Tressel said. "He was looking forward to that going to Ohio State, and then he had to go in there and help us win games, and we wound up winning the Big Ten and going to a BCS game. I think he looks forward to being under-the-radar and having something to prove."

Because of those athletic gifts Pryor has, he's always been in the spotlight. As Tressel says, "I've never seen a guy that glides like he does, that can run so fast so effortlessly. With every defense he's ever played against, pursuit angles change, because he can run around them, and he's never cut off at the pass with the ease with which he moves."

That, and the 4.3 40-yard dash he ran Saturday, is enough to make people wonder about a position switch. The right coach using him creatively could cook up matchup nightmare scenarios. But from the sounds of it, Pryor's priority for now is staying at quarterback.

"When I get there, I'll talk to them," he said. "As of right now, I'm going there as a quarterback. That's until I get there, then I'll speak to them. And whatever helps the team win, I'll speak to them, and we'll handle it."

The best news for Pryor, of course, is that this opportunity even exists. The five-game suspension was, as a practical matter, a compromise by a league that desperately wants to keep the potential safe-haven floodgates of the supplemental draft as secure as possible. That'll set back Pryor's progress, though he will be able to do everything but take part in team practices, even get individual on-field instruction from coaches.

And from afar, Tressel was happy to see that Pryor could move on.

"He knows I love him very much," said his old coach. "My major concern is what he becomes as a man, not as an NFL quarterback or football player. We feel strongly about one another. He feels terrible when he disappoints me and I feel terrible when I disappoint him. We're always there for one another.

"This has been kind of like when your own child graduates. You say, 'OK, it's on you now.' You hope they take what they learned, and you see how they apply it. We've had our time, and now it's a new world for him. You say, 'I hope you're prepared, because we tried like heck to prepare you, we'll always be there for you. Now, go have fun with it.'"

Tressel wasn't willing to guess what happens next in this winding saga starring Pryor. But he does know that the nerves will subside and then this 6-foot-5, 232-pounder will go play football again.

And he's always been pretty good at that.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer

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