With longer schedules, busier off-seasons, and injuries constantly on the rise, we’ll never again have the privilege of watching a true two-sport star like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders walk the line between superstar and super-human in any major North American team sport.
Instead, we’re now amazed by the athlete that’s within the athlete, or more specifically, athletes who flaunt their superhero-like athleticism and those able to excel at various positions. Fortunately, the NFL has long been known for the versatility of its athletes, and failed NFL quarterback-turned Cleveland Browns’ star receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. is a prime example of someone who’s beating the odds at a position he hadn’t played prior to reaching the pros.
In his first season as an actual contributor to an NFL offense, Pryor Sr. has turned his last shot at an NFL career into a breakout campaign consisting of 62 receptions, 855 yards and four touchdowns. And with troubled wideout Josh Gordon out of the picture, the unexpected decline of pass-catching tight end Gary Barnidge, and the Browns’ never-ending quarterback concerns, Pryor Sr.’s transformation has been one of the very few positives during yet another losing season in Cleveland.
A standout starting quarterback at Ohio State, Pryor Sr.’s NFL career began under less than impressive circumstances when the Oakland Raiders decided to roll the dice on the former Buckeye and selected him in the third round of the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft. But after three seasons of next to no playing time in Oakland, Pryor was shipped to the Seattle Seahawks in the first of several unsuccessful stops and subsequent steps down the NFL ladder that could’ve easily ended his career.
Buried at the bottom of Seattle’s depth chart, Pryor Sr. was soon sent packing following another fruitless pre-season, and after failing to catch-on with several other NFL squads, getting waived by the Cincinnati Bengals in July of 2015 finally forced him to accept the fact that he’d never be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
It was then that Pryor Sr. made the decision that’s since saved his career, switching to wide receiver the day after being waived by the Bengals—the same day that Cleveland chose to claim the former quarterback. Understandably, Pryor Sr. was initially against the idea of making such a significant change, and before his brief stint with Cincinnati, he told the media that he was only interested in playing professionally if he was spending his time under center.
Standing 6 foot 5 and weighing just north of 220 pounds, Pryor Sr. has definitely been blessed with the frame of an NFL wideout, and while most quarterbacks simply don’t possess the type of breakout speed required to become a receiver, the former Buckeye once ran a reassuring rookie time of 4.38 in the 40-yard dash.
Although impressed by Pryor Sr.’s progress, then-head coach Mike Pettine actually cut him from Cleveland’s crop of receivers before the beginning of last season. However, instead of allowing yet another failure to destroy his NFL dreams or heading to the CFL in search of a starting quarterback gig, Pryor Sr. continued to work towards a complete transformation.
Last January, that transformation took a gigantic leap forward when Pryor snagged a 42-yard reception during Cleveland’s season-ending loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was his only catch of both the game and the season—as well as an interesting side note to another Browns’ loss. But that reception was his first as an NFL wideout, and it represented a glimpse into Pryor Sr.’s future. At the moment, that future isn’t as bright as it could be thanks to Cleveland’s win-less record, and despite his own success, Pryor told reporters that he could be doing even more to help his team turn things around ahead of last week’s bye.
”Am I happy about the little success I’m having? Yeah. I mean that’s everybody,” said Pryor Sr. via The Akron Beacon Journal. ”You’d be stupid for someone to sit up here and say they don’t care about them being successful or doing something well. But I feel there’s so much more that I could do well that I feel lie I’m part of the reason we’re 0-12. That’s how I think of it. That’s what pushes me everyday to try to have a perfect game, that’s what I’m chasing.”
Coincidentally, both former Browns’ kick returner Josh Cribbs and New England Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman were starting quarterbacks at Kent State University before switching positions in the pros, and fellow Buckeye quarterback of the past Braxton Miller is currently a rookie receiver for the Houston Texans after converting to the position at Ohio State.
But of all those who’ve attempted to transition from signal-caller to pass-catcher, only Pryor Sr. reached the pinnacle of the quarterback position while guiding the Buckeyes before being given a chance to succeed under an NFL center. And although that’s made the transition even tougher, it’s clear that he’s finally found a home as a very talented NFL wide receiver.