February 5, 2007

Top junior draws NFL comparisons

In modern athletics, comparisons are inevitable - if not ridiculous.

Every outstanding running back is the next Reggie Bush. Every big wide receiver is the next Calvin Johnson.

But there is one dominant figure from the last few years that no one had been compared to because of his rare physical stature and skills - Vince Young. The former Texas quarterback and current Tennessee Titans QB just received NFL Rookie of the Year honors.

Now, there is a high school quarterback in Pennsylvania who is conjuring up images of VY.

Jeannette, Pa., quarterback Terrelle Pryor has been compared to Young because of his 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame, his ability to glide past players at top speed and his ability to simply dominate football games.

His numbers - 1,732 yards passing, 1,676 yards rushing and 44 total touchdowns as a junior - are very Vince-like. But the comparisons have not come from fans or recruitniks alone, the usual sources of premature hype. The comparisons come from a Jeannette football coaching staff that has watched him emerge as a great football player over the last few years.

"We actually started the comparison because it's really the only one there is when you see him," said Jeannette coach Ray Reitz. "It comes from the coaches and community, because that's who he can become. He has the potential to be the next Vince Young of college football, and we don't say that lightly."

That's heady stuff, especially for a 17-year-old who is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential. But Pryor doesn't pay it any mind.

"I leave it up to people to make their own comparisons when they watch me play," he said. "It's a very nice comparison, but I haven't done anything yet. I like to watch Vince Young and Troy Smith and the quarterbacks that can move around and do things, but I don't compare myself to them."

Pryor is so good he could be the next (and first) Terrelle Pryor. He still looks skinny on his 6-foot-6 frame, he's getting faster and he's learning how to play quarterback. The same raw athletic ability also comes out in basketball, where Pryor is ranked as a national top-25 player.

"Terrelle is just learning how to be a quarterback," said Reitz. "He's more natural as a runner than as a passer right now, but that's to be expected. Terrelle loves to learn, he's always the first one out there at practice working with coach (Roy) Hall, our quarterbacks coach, on a lot of different things. There's nothing that Terrelle can't do on the field, and it's scary how good he can be."

One example of Pryor's ability sticks out to both player and coach.

"My favorite play was when we were down near the goal line, I'm not sure which game," Pryor said. "I ran to the outside and had a defender between me and the end zone," he said with exuberance. "So I just jumped over him. That was pretty cool."

Reitz thought it was a little more than cool.

"We were just shaking our heads on the sideline," he said. "That's something we've never seen before."

One of the big questions surrounding Pryor is which sport he'll end up playing in college.

"I'm going to sign for football, but I want to play both," said Pryor, who has roughly 15 programs who have already offered him in both sports. "I think my future is in football because my size is rarer at quarterback than it is at small forward, but I like both sports and would like to do both."

Being recruited in both sports is no picnic, but Pryor is handling it well so far.

"I get about 150-200 text messages a day," he said. "I had to up my text message limit to unlimited and my phone bill is pretty high, but it's all good. I know it's going to continue for awhile because I don't plan to make any decision without taking my official visits."

The topics of the texts are broad - and sometimes humorous.

"They range from wishing me good luck at a game or checking to see if we won our basketball games to some crazy stuff," he said. "I won't say which program sent this text, but one of them told me that the girls at his school were the hottest so I should go there."

Pryor will look for a little more than that when selecting a school, but he hasn't begun to narrow things down.

"I'm not even at the beginning of the process," he said. "I don't have any favorites. I grew up a North Carolina fan for basketball, but that won't matter. I want to make sure a program can be successful in both sports and I fit into what they want to do."

Despite a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, Pryor's gliding style - similar to Young's - makes him look like he's not going full speed.

"I see myself on film and I think, 'I'm slow'," he laughed. "It doesn't look like I'm really running hard."

"He's very humble and team-oriented," said Reitz. "I'll give you an example. We were breaking down film from our game against Central Catholic and we were all watching the television broadcast of it. Each time the announcers started gushing over Terrelle, he fast forwarded. He just doesn't like to think he's that big a deal."

Pryor doesn't mind giving back to others in the community as well.

"I sign as many autographs as I'm asked for because if they think I'm worth it, then why should I say no?" he said. "Some are for adults, some for kids and I don't know where they end up but I try to sign everything."

Pryor also has a soft spot for kids.

"I was in the barbershop recently and a little kid was asking his mom for a do-rag for like two bucks," he said. "She couldn't afford it, and he was upset. So I bought him three of them. I just feel that way sometimes when I see kids who need help."

Pryor will do whatever it takes for his team to win, a leadership ability that is emerging.

"He understands that winning will bring all the attention he could ever want," said Reitz. "He knows he'll shine more on a winning team, so he works hard to be a leader and team player. The biggest difference between Terrelle from his sophomore year and junior year is that he started to make players around him better. He raises their game with his own."

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