"I didn't like the area,' Pryor said of his reason not to choose Penn State at a press conference to sign his letter-of-intent at the Jeannette High School auditorium Wednesday afternoon. "It's country to me. It's a country type of thing. I just don't like that place.'
Instead, Pryor, the blue-chip quarterback, consensus No. 1 prospect in this class and considered one of the best talents to come down the pike in years, chose the Nittany Lions' Big Ten rival, Ohio State.
The Lions weren't even in the top two when it was all said and done. Michigan was the runner-up for Pryor's signature.
"I feel bad for saying 'no' to Michigan, because I had so much a bond with Coach [Rich] Rodriguez,' Pryor said, joined by his parents, sister, brother, grandmother and a number of Jeannette coaches at a table on stage. "I feel they had their hopes on me, and I let them down. But I'm going with Coach Tress [Ohio State's Jim Tressel].'
Pryor repeated that point several times during a question and answer session that followed his actual signing. Pryor said he broke the news to Rodriguez earlier in the day, and the Wolverine coach continued to try to get him to change his mind -- "Coach Rod did his job,' Pryor said.
According to Pryor, he didn't arrive at a decision until Wednesday morning.
"I felt bad that I didn't pick Michigan,' Pryor said. "If I picked Michigan, it'd be Ohio State I'd have felt bad for.'
Penn State, however, barely elicited much more mention than did Pryor's other finalist, Oregon. In a highly unorthodox move, Pryor put off signing on Feb. 6 with the idea of taking official visits to both of those schools, but neither materialized.
"Penn State was in it. I'm not going to lie to you. I had a close bond with [Assistant] Coach [Tom] Bradley. Penn State just wasn't the place for me,' Pryor said.
Asked in follow-up why it wasn't, Pryor quickly shot back, "It's just not.'
A 2,000-yard rusher and passer as a senior, Pryor was also a 2,000-point scorer in basketball and a major Division I prospect who was still being pursued by Southern Cal and Memphis in that sport recently. He said his focus in the last month was on leading Jeannette's attempt to become the first WPIAL school to win football and basketball titles in the same year, a task he completed successfully with an overtime win over Strawberry Mansion at the Bryce Jordan Center Saturday.
Most experts had left Penn State's chances to sign Pryor for dead when he announced after that game that he would be making a college choice in the next couple of days and wouldn't be making any more officials visits. NCAA regulations prohibit college coaches from commenting on the recruiting of specific athletes, but western Pennsylvania-based recruiting writer Bob Lichtenfels of Scout.com said his sense was the Lions still felt they were in it until the end.
"I think Coach Bradley still felt they had a shot, because that's what Terrelle was telling them,' Lichtenfels said. "Sometimes he says stuff and says something different a week later. It all depends on how you look at it.
"I think Coach Bradley thought they were still in the game. I don't think even last night they knew for sure what his decision was.'
Pryor's father, Craig, was often believed to be the driving force behind his son's not signing at his first press conference in an effort to get him to reconsider Penn State. Craig Pryor, who is confined to a wheelchair by Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disorder -- ironically, a cause for which Penn State coach Joe Paterno champions a cure -- said that was not the case, that he just wanted Terrelle to take more time to make sure he was making the right decision and that he supported his son's choice.
He did, however, roll his eyes when asked about his son's comments about Penn State being too rural for him.
"He's never really been in the city, anyhow,' Craig Pryor said, laughing. "I don't know where he gets that. I kind of grew up in the country all my life. State College is probably a little bit bigger than Jeannette.
The elder Pryor went on to say he liked both Joe and Jay Paterno as well as Bradley, and that they had told Terrelle they envisioned utilizing him as they had Michael Robinson.
Terrelle's mother, Thomasina, was asked if speculation about Joe Paterno's coaching future or Penn State's underwhelming record of developing professional quarterbacks over the years had an impact on her son's decision, but she said she didn't know.
With Pryor now headed to Columbus to be a Buckeye, Penn State has to plan to move ahead.
"Obviously, Terrelle Pryor is probably a once in a 10-or-15-year player,' Lichtenfels said, "but I think the world of Pat Devlin. I think he's a great quarterback. I think Penn State fans are kind of sleeping on him a little bit, not giving him a fair shake. I don't really see a reason for Penn State fans to worry.'
Devlin, a Downingtown East product, still has three years of eligibility. More of a traditional quarterback than Pryor, who gets compared to Vince Young and Michael Vick because of his running skills, Devlin is the only quarterback in Pennsylvania high school history to throw for more than 8,000 yards in his career.
Devlin will battle junior Daryll Clark for the starting role this season.
Senior Paul Cianciolo and junior Kevin Suhey are the only other scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. The Lions have reportedly sent out scholarship offers to three of the top dozen or so signal-calling prospects in the Class of 2009 in Tate Forcier, Kevin Newsome and Tom Savage. Penn State would probably try to bring in two quarterbacks in this recruiting class.
Forcier, from San Diego, is small and mobile with a strong arm possession a style not unlike former Nittany Lion Zack Mills, while Savage, from Cardinal O'Hara, reminds some of Anthony Morelli. Lichtenfels said Newsome's skill set is 'very comparable' to that of Pryor.
"There's capable guys out there,' Lichtenfels said.
Fact BoxWhere’s the line start?
Quarterbacks on the Ohio State roster currently are Todd Boeckman, Joe Bauseman, Antonio Henton, Ben Kacsandi and Rob Schoenhoft.