HEMPFIELD, Pa. -- It's safe to say that when Terrelle Pryor committed to Ohio State a little over three years ago, he envisioned his entry to the NFL being a little different than this.
His pro day wasn't held at the Woody Hayes Center, where so many other Buckeyes make their passage to the pros, but at a high school tucked a few miles away from his hometown of Jeannette in the rural hills east of Pittsburgh. And his receivers weren't the big-name recruits who came to Ohio State with him, but three former pros trying to make it back into the league and a childhood buddy he asked to help out.
Until a few months ago, everything about Pryor's athletic career could fall under the heading of "Big Time."
So, if this definitively small-time setting wasn't penance for his string of transgressions in Columbus, the juxtaposition of it against all he's been built up to be in his 21 years was at least interesting.
Maybe the best sign? The idea that he's paying a price, it seems, is just fine with the quarterback and his camp.
"Did he make mistakes? Absolutely. Will he repeat those mistakes? He will not. Is he paying the price? Clearly," said his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. "Five games without being able to play is a stiff penalty. We're not challenging it for one reason only, and that's because we accept that. He is going to learn from that. He is going to pay his price, and he's going to be a better man for it and move on."
NFL's decision backs NCAA
The NFL's decision to suspend former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor for the first five games of the 2011 season was well-received in college circles.
Maybe he proved that in meeting with the teams privately on Saturday, before and after the workout. Maybe he didn't. On Monday, we'll get a bit of a clearer picture of who's bought in and who hasn't.
What's clear is that he's making an effort to show clubs that he's grown.
One component in showing that, as Rosenhaus mentioned, was accepting the five-game suspension that was worked out as a compromise in a case that was sticky for all involved. The league made concessions -- though Pryor can't participate in practice, multiple sources indicate that he'll be allowed to do field work with coaches, which isn't allowed for most suspended players -- and the quarterback seems comfortable with the penalty, even if it has caused a small uproar with the rank-and-file of the NFL.
"I just think it's a blessing to be able to play," Pryor told me. "Mr. (Roger) Goodell gave me an opportunity and I'm thankful for that. The five-game suspension is a big deal for the draft and all that. But at the end of the day, Mr. Goodell is letting me be in the place I wanted to be as a little kid.
"I thank him for the opportunity and I don't have anything but good things to say about Mr. Goodell. He could've said no. But he brought me in and I'm thankful for that."
Of course, his entry into the supplemental draft hardly guarantees a thing for Pryor, a player who a sizeable number of NFL executives still have doubts about as a starting quarterback.
His athleticism, on the other hand, is hard to miss. Checking in at just under 6-foot-5 and just over 232 pounds, Pryor clocked one 40-yard dash in the 4.3s, and another in the 4.4s, unheard of numbers for a player of that size at that position. He also broad jumped 10-foot-4, and registered a not-as-impressive vertical jump of 31 inches in spartan conditions, simply slapping a cement wall with a chalked hand to mark his standing leap.
He has really never, though, had his raw ability questioned. The refinement of his game as a passer is where the questions have always led. And that's where things were a bit murkier.
He showed zip and an ability to fling the ball 75 or 80 yards, but he was hardly perfect. He completed 27 of his 39 throws to moving targets, with (unofficially) four dropped balls. There wasn't a defense out there, but Pryor was also throwing to players he wasn't accustomed to -- former Lions Kevin Smith and Alrich Arnett, and ex-Bill Andre Anderson -- as well as a childhood buddy he called in.
It wasn't exactly like earlier in the offseason, when he had fellow Rosenhaus clients Sidney Rice and Chad Ochocinco with him, but to his credit, Pryor didn't use the conditions as a crutch.
"I missed some throws that I have to make," he said. "No excuses. I'm just out there to get better. And that just shows, on the ones I missed, that I have to get a lot better, and I'm going to take the opportunity when I get the opportunity to get better. I'm just going to keep getting better. I'm pretty upset, I'm mad about the missed throws, but I just got to keep working. There's so much space to get better. I'm going to take advantage of it."
In all, 17 teams were there to witness it -- the Steelers, Redskins, Saints, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Chargers, Bills, Browns, Lions, Colts, Eagles, Raiders, Dolphins, 49ers, Patriots, Chiefs and Bengals. Most were represented by area scouts, as much due to the wacky timing of this as anything, but all 32 teams will get the tape of the workout from the Steelers.
What will they see? Said one NFC scout in attendance: "His release was way more natural, and you could tell he's been working on his footwork." An AFC scout added that "(Pryor) was pretty accurate and the ball just jumped out of his hand. It was a lot better than what I expected."
Another NFC scout poured some water on the good vibes, saying that "If you're looking for an elite quarterback, I thought (the workout) was just OK. What you see on the film, that's what you're going to get."
In the end, that's a quarterback with the kind of overwhelming athleticism that allowed him to compile 6,177 yards passing, 2,164 yards rushing, a combined 74 touchdowns, a 31-4 record, three Big 10 titles and two BCS bowl wins, despite being pretty unpolished at the position he occupied.
That, of course, has always raised the question of whether or not he'd be a candidate to switch positions down the line or, at the very least, be used in a specialized role early in his career.
And it's a question that Roy Hall -- Pryor's high school position coach and now Jeannette High's head coach -- asked at the start of the summer. "He said, 'Coach, why would you say that?' " Hall explained. "He's willing to do whatever it takes, but he wants to be a quarterback."
Pressed on whether or not Pryor could pull off a position switch, Hall said, "I'm sure he could."
For now, he's a project who is probably tantalizing some coaches.
But again, given the circumstances, Pryor has as much to prove off the field as on it. There to support him on Saturday was the other ostracized figure in the Ohio State controversy, former coach Jim Tressel, whose presence was requested by the quarterback himself, as well as a large contingent from Jeannette.
Tressel politely declined to talk, but most folks there to support Pryor said the quarterback has matured as a person. Pryor said that growth is the biggest thing he's taken from the largely self-inflicted purgatory he's been in over the last two months.
"The biggest thing I think I'm taking with me is doing the right things," Pryor told me. "It's doing the rights, because if something happens it'll come back at you. It's patience and doing the right things and being a professional every day. I look forward to that opportunity to be a professional and working my butt off."
Ultimately, he said his goal on Saturday was to convince teams to say, "I want Terrelle Pryor as a quarterback for the team." The wait to find out which clubs feel that way has been a strange one for Pryor, all the way up to Saturday's 1950s-style pro day.
The good news for the quarterback is that the wait is nearly done. And bumpy as it's been, it seems like the circuitous ride back to the big time has done Pryor some good.