Pryor Motives

Times have drastically changed in Columbus over the last year with the amount of scandals, suspensions and dismissals Ohio State has gone through. While he's an advocate of not breaking rules, Wisconsin senior cornerback Aaron Henry can understand, to a degree, the tough choices some student athletes are faced with.

MADISON - As he prepared for his senior season at the University of Wisconsin, senior safety Aaron Henry knew where he stood on the topic – he wanted to play against Terrelle Pryor in Columbus.

"I love the way he plays and the heart he shows when he plays," Henry said.

Pryor had been a nemesis for Wisconsin in winning the previous two meetings, including running for the game-winning score in 2008, before Wisconsin dominated No.1 Ohio State and Pryor in Madison last season, holding the quarterback to 156 passing yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 89.7, his lowest of the season.

The Badgers silenced him on the field, but not off the field, another reason Wisconsin wanted another shot at him.

"Not to take anything away from Wisconsin at all – I really don't want it to come off like this – but they weren't better than us," Pryor told the Columbus Dispatch a week later. "Everybody knows that if we play nine out of 10 times, we'd beat Wisconsin."

When No.12 Wisconsin heads to Ohio State this Saturday, Pryor's image is no longer associated with a 31-4 overall record and two BCS bowl wins, but that of selfishness, shame and arrogance that has dragged the program's reputation through the mud.

As it has become well known over the past 11 months, Pryor was the key player among five student-athletes suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season, but still permitted to play in the bowl game, for trading memorabilia for tattoos in December. After further investigations of his alleged use of multiple automobiles, Pryor quietly left the university after a prepared statement, his head coach, Jim Tressel, was fired for covering up the situation and the Buckeyes vacated their 2011 Big Ten championship season in hopes of easing the final punishment from the NCAA rules and infractions committee, a ruling that should come by the end of the year.

Three of the other four suspended athletes (Mike Adams, Dan Herron and Solomon Thomas) have been reinstated after serving their suspension and repaying money and benefits. All three are active for this weekend while one player (DeVier Posey) remains suspended after more rules violations.

When first asked about Pryor after the suspension, Henry believed a majority of the players would be sympathetic toward Pryor because Henry knows what it is like to be in a pinch. One of 10 kids (he has nine sisters) and with no father figure growing up, Henry's family lived a very simple life, often living paycheck to paycheck.

That's why it was so devastating to Henry and his family when his mom, who had worked two or three jobs to support the family, which lived in the public housing program, lost her job as a high school janitor because the district invested money in a machine that does most of the janitorial cleaning.

"It was unfortunate, and unfortunately, she's still living on the public housing," Henry said. "My sisters help her out and make sure the lights stay on and have the necessities that she needs. My mom has sacrificed so much to benefit my life. We didn't always have a Christmas or get birthday gifts, but my mom one time used her first paycheck to buy me these Allen Iverson sneakers that I really wanted. I was going crazy because it meant too much to me."

Henry's would-be motives and Pryor's actual motives are entirely different, but Henry was an advocate then and still is for the NCAA changing rules to make it fairer for the student athlete.

"I think it's hard sometimes being a student athlete," said Henry. "The university can sell our jerseys, even though they don't have names on the back, and make money on them. It is what it is. I guess it's another way for them to make money. It's the law of the land and we have to abide by it.

"(My) upbringing and his understanding is if something if yours, you have to right to do with it what you want … If my family or parents needed money, I would have to assist them if I could."

While the NCAA has no plans to soften the rules on memorabilia, NCAA president Mark Emmert backed a proposal earlier this week to allow conferences to increase grants to student-athletes by $2,000 that would "more closely approach" the full cost of attending college.

It's a move that starts to chip away at the amateurism of the sport, but a move that could help financially-strapped student-athletes like Henry beyond the tuition, fees, room, housing and books.

"Hopefully at the end of the day, I can put her in a position that she'll never have to work again and put her somewhere that's relatively nice," Henry said. "I want her to be taken care of, and that's why I play the way I do and put in the amount of work that I put in."

Wisconsin hasn't had any major rules violations since 2000 when 157 athletes in 14 sports were found guilty of receiving extra benefits at The Shoe Box, a discount shoe store in Black Earth. From a player's standpoint, keeping their nose clean is a direct result of the policies put in place by the coaches and school administrators, ensuring that an incident like the one in Columbus doesn't corrupt what is a successful run in Madison.

As Henry put it, the coaches ask the players, ‘What would your mom tell you to do in the situation? Would she tell you to put yourself ahead of the team?' With that scenario, Henry has the perfect role model.

"I had a chance to talk with my mother the other day. I asked how she was and she said ‘Baby, I woke up this morning.' So when you have a lady like that, someone who doesn't really care about what's going on tomorrow but excited to wake up, I'm all for it.

"The university does a great job in schooling us on this stuff, giving us a presentation of what he can and cannot do. It's very specified of we can do this or can't do that. If we autograph a football and give it to a high school, we have to go through some procedures to make sure that it's cleared so we don't get in trouble. It's a fine line."

Badger Nation Top Stories