Pryor Set For Homecoming Debut

It is no secret that Penn State fans highly coveted Terrelle Pryor out of high school, but he scorned the advances of his home state school and (obviously) picked the Buckyes. Now as he prepares to head into the hornets' nest, the quarterback is trying to focus on simply getting ready for the game while blocking out outside distractions.

Nick Siciliano does not want you to think that Terrelle Pryor still regards Penn State as "too country."

When the quarterback selected Ohio State over the Nittany and a host of other schools, the native of Jeannette, Pa., used those words to describe State College. Tomorrow, the sophomore will lead the Buckeyes in a road contest against a PSU team that defeated him and his teammates one year ago in Columbus.

In the middle of his weekly interview session with local media, Pryor was interrupted by one reporter's cell phone ringing and playing a fanciful, twangy tune. It caused Pryor to remark, "You're about to go horse riding."

Seated directly to Pryor's right, OSU's quarterbacks coach sought to immediately clear up any possible misconceptions about the athlete's comments.

"Just to make that clear, he wasn't talking about somebody going to Beaver Stadium," Siciliano said.

It's that kind of situation for Pryor, formerly the nation's No. 1 recruit. Although he grew up in western Pennsylvania in a town nearly equidistant to both OSU and PSU, the pressure was on him to stay in-state and play for head coach Joe Paterno at the next level.

Growing up, Pryor said he attended more than 10 football games at Beaver Stadium compared to a handful at Ohio Stadium. One night before National Signing Day, a disagreement between Pryor and his father over the dad's love for the PSU coaching staff led the quarterback to postpone his decision date in order to take an official visit to the university.

That trip never materialized. Pryor is now into his second season as a starter in Columbus and said he can't imagine playing anywhere else.

"I came here to Ohio State to play there in this type of game," he said. "My teammates are with me. I'm going to leave the hype to them and I'm going to let the crowd hype me and we'll feed off of that. We're really looking forward to it."

The game has divided loyalties in his hometown, which has apparently undergone a change in the past three years. According to Jeannette head coach Roy Hall, who served as Pryor's quarterbacks coach and remains close to him, signs of OSU fandom are continually popping up around town.

"One time up here the biggest seller was Penn State stuff and Pittsburgh Steelers stuff," Hall said. "Now there's such a demand for Ohio State stuff at the stores. You never saw Ohio State stuff in the stores like that. You're seeing it all over. Honestly, you can't go anywhere without seeing an Ohio State t-shirt, hat, jacket or something."

OSU freshman running back Jordan Hall also hails from Jeannette, giving the town of about 9,000 two key members of the Buckeye offensive backfield.

"How many towns like that can say they had the backfield for a big school like Ohio State?" Hall said. "A lot of people are saying it gave them goosebumps. With all the hard economic times, you see something like that and it gives you something. Even the biggest Penn State fans are happy for those guys."

When it comes to the actual game this weekend, however, Penn State fans will remain Penn State fans, Hall said. Pryor said he expects nothing less.

"Being a Pennsylvania guy, being recruited by Penn State, just from going there and watching the game and seeing the stadium rocking and shaking, it's going to be a crazy atmosphere, but that's what we come here for," he said. "That's what we come to play football at Ohio State for.

"We're going into it as a team. If I get spit on, the whole team gets spit on. We're not going to worry about that."

A PSU student marketing group made t-shirts this weekend with a drawing of the PSU mascot consoling a teary-eyed Pryor with a box of tissues. Pryor said he was aware of the shirt but brushed it off, saying it knew it was simply a joke.

At his final press conference of the week, OSU head coach Jim Tressel said he felt Pryor and fellow quarterback Joe Bauserman were more dialed in to the team's game plan than he had ever seen before. He partially credited the pressure of Pryor returning to his home state as helping refine his focus.

"I'm going to try to lay back and when you're supposed to be hyped get hyped but also at the same time I've got to remember what I have to do," Pryor said. "I need full focus. I can't let anything get in the way."

Hall said that attitude should pay big dividends tomorrow.

"I'm sure a lot of fans and people at Penn State just knew that (Pryor) was going to Penn State," he said. "He knows that he's going to be taking a lot of heat, a lot of pressure and a lot of attention. There's probably going to be a lot of signs and all that stuff.

"I know it's on a much bigger stage than it was in high school, but from what I know about Terrelle, when the pressure is on he seems to excel."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories