By Dave Krider
"The mailbox belonging to Terrelle is full," the recording repeats monotonously day after day.
Terrelle Pryor, a rising senior at Jeannette, Pa., is the most versatile and most sought-after high school athlete in the country. Tom Lemming of CSTV ranks him as the nation's No. 1 high school football player and sees him as "a kind of Vince Young. He could play quarterback, tight end, safety, defensive end or linebacker."
"I hear it a lot," Pryor says of the No. 1 ranking. "At first it got to be overwhelming. It would probably give any top-10 player extra pressure. If you have an off game (people will say) you're not that good. It's an incentive to play hard all the time. Someone has to be No. 1. Why can't it be me?"
Because of his great celebrity, Pryor once signed 200 autographs at a school bonfire on a single day.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound quarterback is dominant either running or passing, not to mention a great defender at safety. He has been timed at 4.46 seconds in the 40, bench presses 300 pounds and has a 37-inch vertical jump. He also is a big-time basketball player. At last report he still was considering the following colleges: Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Alabama, Texas, Florida, West Virginia, Penn State, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and Michigan State.
As a junior Pryor led the Jayhawks to a 14-2 record and Class AA state finals. He completed 92 of 163 passes for 1,732 yards and 15 touchdowns - with just five interceptions. He also ran 197 times for 1,676 yards and 28 touchdowns. On defense he had 10 interceptions. During his sophomore year he ran 78 times for 663 yards and 10 touchdowns, while completing 56 of 106 passes for 719 yards and six touchdowns.
His basketball statistics are equally impressive. During the 2006-2007 season he averaged 20.8 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks as the Jayhawks reached the Class AA state semifinals. He had six triple doubles. He averaged 21.5 points and 10 rebounds with 50 dunks as a sophomore. As a freshman he averaged 16.8 points and 10 rebounds. His career total of 1,658 points is 61 short of the school record and the team has compiled a 73-14 record during that period.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Mike White, who has covered prep sports for 28 years, told MaxPreps, "We haven't had a two-sport kid recruited as heavily since Tom Clements (a 1971 graduate of Pittsburgh Canevin Catholic). We haven't seen his size, strength and athletic ability in two sports."
White never will forget a 2006 game in which Pryor (playing safety) hurdled the opposing center's head, landed on his feet and caught the ball coming off the kicker's foot on an extra-point attempt. White's best basketball memory was watching Pryor take a pass on the wing and dunk in the face of Aliquippa's 6-9 All-American, Herb Pope.
Spectacular plays, in fact, seem to be produced routinely by Pryor, who has blocked six or seven kicks during his career. On a field goal blitz, he once kicked the ball off the tee before the kicker even got to it. "They called a penalty," he said, still in disbelief. "They said I kicked the kicker." On another occasion he scored a touchdown by leaping over a defender into the end zone. Offensively, he broke a 99-yard touchdown around end after faking a handoff to the fullback.
Apparently, even referees can't believe their eyes when Pryor is on the field.
Football coach Ray Reitz says, "He's a very heady player. He likes to work. A lot of kids with his kind of athletic ability are kind of lazy. Terrelle is the opposite and that sets him above the rest. He absorbs a lot of things like a sponge. Last year he was pretty adamant that everybody else got credit."
Pryor launched his football career at age six as a running back in a midget league. "I got a lot of touchdowns in every game," he recalled. But his career really took off in seventh grade. "We didn't have a quarterback, so they just threw me in," he explained. "We won the midget championship. I threw 13 touchdowns and ran for a bunch, too."
In eighth grade he grew from 5-10 to 6-3. During his junior high days he pointed out, "I always threw to the best player." Once in high school, however, he began facing complicated defenses and the landscape changed dramatically. "There are so many tricks that you have to have down and so many things that you still have to learn," he admitted.
"If I'm having a tough time on a play and have to get rid of the ball, I only have 25 seconds on the play clock. If I had time to sit there, I could tell you every defense. I'd rather throw a touchdown than run, but I've got to work on my short game. Once I get hit, I take off. If things break down, you need to get out of there.
"The only defense that gave me trouble last year was the craziest defense I ever saw. They had three on the line, blitzed two and threw nine back waiting for me to run. I threw two touchdowns and ran for one."
Pryor is not sure if he will try to double in basketball as a collegian. But he has the talent to play anywhere. "I was always tall," he related. "I had no jump shot and took it to the hole every time. I had a quick first step. In fifth grade I had to play on the seventh-eighth grade team. I had to play with (older) kids that I had looked up to. I got a jump shot as a sophomore and I make everything now."
Rick Klimchock, who coached Pryor as a freshman and sophomore, says, "He has tremendous court sense. His biggest goal is to make his teammates better. Anybody would take him in a minute. In football he can play on Sundays."
Current Jeannette basketball coach Jim Nesser points out, "What makes him so great is that he's so unselfish. He can be a point guard, forward or post. He is really hard to guard. He's so explosive. The key word is versatile. He just keeps getting better. I've never heard him say anything about statistics - it's all about winning. He's pretty level headed."
Off the field Pryor also is a leader, having been elected president of the incoming senior class. In addition, he is a member of a service organization, Alpha Hi-Y, which helps raise money for children who are cancer patients. He carries a 3.2 GPA and math is his favorite subject. His long-term goal is to become an FBI agent.
Despite his immense accomplishments, Pryor "has not hit his full potential yet," coach Reitz predicts. That's a scary thought not only for future Jeannette opponents, but also for potential college and professional foes down the road.