Credit: Hayden Grove
BEREA— It was 11:00 p.m. when Jim Tressel's phone buzzed, lighting up in the way that only iPhones can.
“I look and it’s FaceTime,” Tressel said, sporting a Cleveland Browns polo at the team’s practice facility in Berea. “I don’t do FaceTime with anybody, other than my new grandson.”
This time, it wasn’t Tressel’s grandson on the other end.
It was, however, a player that the former Ohio State head coach remains close to, despite their trials and tribulations over the years.
Then still a quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, Terrelle Pryor was in the film room, looking to hold onto the last shred of hope that he could still pursue his dream of being an NFL signal caller.
“It’s him in the film room in Kansas City,” Tressel said. “He said, ‘Hey, look at this play!’”
Months after that football-themed FaceTime, things changed quite a bit for the former Buckeye quarterback.
Now a member of the Cleveland Browns and amidst a transition that he hopes will result in him turning into an NFL wide receiver, Pryor was on the practice field in Berea when his former coach paid him a visit and offered his support.
“He’ll give it his all and he’ll do everything he can to help the team,” Tressel said. “He’s got the skills and now you’re going to find out if he can learn. This level is a cerebral level and you need to have the skills, of course, but what separates you is from the neck up. No one will work harder at it.”
Watching Pryor work at wide receiver, Tressel offered a thought that might give Pryor an additional advantage in his quest to find a new position.
It is often forgotten that the six-foot, six-inch Pryor was a fourth-team Parade All-American basketball player in high school who wanted to continue his hoop dreams at Ohio State.
Football, then, was a hinderance in his hooping, which is why he wasn’t allowed to play for the Buckeyes.
Now, Tressel said, his basketball days will be a help.
“The one’s that keep popping into my mind are the guys that transitioned from basketball to receiver,” Tressel said. “You think of Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates, guys that had great length and instincts and so forth.”
Graham, now a member of the Seattle Seahawks, played just one year of collegiate football at the University of Miami, before becoming a third-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft and a Pro Bowler just two years later.
Gates, on the other hand, never played college football, but impressed enough NFL scouts to sign with the San Diego Chargers in 2003, subsequently becoming the Chargers’ all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns 12 years later.
Tressel understands that those are just two stories of success amidst thousands of failures, but they too prove that Pryor at least has a chance to be successful in Cleveland.
“It’s such a competitive (league.) There’s only 32 teams and 1,500 players in the world. That’s pretty selective,” Tressel said. “He has another opportunity… he’s in the moment. It will be fun to watch him.”