Seated at a podium in his high school auditorium in Jeannette, Pa., Terrelle Pryor told a national audience that he would not be selecting a school and instead planned to take at least two more official visits. The nation's No. 1 recruit had been viewed as an Ohio State lean, but a key reason for his decision to delay an announcement was the urging of his father, Craig, to take an official visit to see the Nittany Lions.
Pryor had already officially visited OSU and Michigan, but now visits to PSU and Oregon were apparently in the works. The talk of the day was how Paterno had palled around with Pryor's family, resulting in a relationship that made Craig Pryor insist upon his son taking a trip to Happy Valley. In particular, Paterno, coaches from both PSU and Jeannette and those close to Pryor had a dinner that was viewed to have been a turning point in Pryor's recruitment.
But through it all, Paterno was certain of one thing: his team had absolutely no chance whatsoever of landing Pryor.
"I never thought we had a chance with Terrelle," Paterno said before the season began. "He was very polite and well-mannered, but he never came out for an official visit. When you can't get him up for an official visit, I don't think you've really got a chance."
Pryor's father suffers from a muscular disease called CMT that has him confined to a wheelchair. Through his philanthropic efforts, Paterno said he bonded with Craig Pryor.
That enabled him to have a close relationship with the Pryor family.
"The reason I got close to the family (is) … I have been a spokesman for CMT for a couple of years," Paterno said. "I think that had been a big part of it. I think Terrelle was pretty well set (on OSU)."
That feeling proved to be true, as Pryor eventually selected the Buckeyes a little more than a month after signing day. However, that was not for lack of effort from the PSU program.
Current Nittany Lion starting quarterback Daryll Clark said he spoke with Pryor while he was being recruited, and he came away from the experience feeling the high school senior would not be joining him in Happy Valley.
"I remember going to one of his basketball games actually and talking to him after the game and trying to get him to come here," Clark said. "He had other plans. You can only tell him what you want to tell him and the rest is up to him."
It appears, then, that OSU's primary competition came from the Wolverines and not the Nittany Lions. He never took official visits to either PSU or Oregon. Pryor was on the Nittany Lion campus shortly before making his final decision, however: His basketball team was playing in the state championship, which was held at the university's Bryce Jordan Center.
Despite Paterno's desire to keep Pryor from leaving the state, any attempt to sell him on proximity was negated by OSU head coach Jim Tressel.
"Columbus is just as close as State College is (to Jeannette)," Tressel said. "I mapped it out for him, several times."
There are apparently more than a few differences between the cities, however. At one point, Pryor said Happy Valley is "too country" for his tastes – a comment that has apparently rankled a few Nittany Lions.
"That's his thought and that's his choice to go to another school," Clark said. "It's working out for him right now. He made his decision. I can't really say it was a bad one – he's playing well right now."
Leading up to the game, OSU quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels said it has not occurred to him that in another reality Pryor could be standing on the opposite sideline for this game. Although Pryor has not been made available for interviews this week to anyone besides ESPN, Tressel said the chance to play the Nittany Lions might bring out a little more fire from the Pennsylvania native.
"Terrelle would never admit it if there were the case," Tressel said. "I'm sure he's excited. He loves the big stage and the big challenge. He watches that film. He sees how good they are. He knows he's from there. But he'll be excited."
Even if, as it turns out, the Nittany Lions never really had a shot at landing him anyway.