Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was declared eligible for Monday's NFL supplemental draft but must sit out the first five games after he signs a contract.
The NFL announced Thursday he was eligible, along with five other players. Pryor gave up his final season with the Buckeyes following an NCAA investigation into the football team's memorabilia-for-cash scandal. He would've had to sit out five games at Ohio State if he had chosen to return to school.
"God bless and thanks for support!" Pryor wrote on his Twitter page. "Time to have a little fun!!"
The league informed clubs that Pryor "made decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL draft." Among those, the league said, was his failure to cooperate with the NCAA and hiring of an agent in violation of NCAA rules. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted that you can't do that "and get a free pass into the NFL."
CBSSports.com national columnist Mike Freeman writes that the suspension opens up a Pandora's box.
"What Goodell did in suspending Pryor, I believe, is unprecedented in American sports. He suspended Pryor for breaking the NCAA's rules. That opens up so many ethical and legal questions my head is spinning," Freeman says.
Pryor may not practice or play until Week 6 of the regular season.
"We accept that voluntarily," Pryor's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told The Associated Press. "It's a small price to pay for him to have a chance to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL."
David Cornwell, Pryor's attorney, said he was pleased that quarterback is eligible for the supplemental draft which was his "primary objective" although having to sit out five games was not the ideal situation.
"Given the range of options, the opportunity to be drafted is better than sitting out until next April," Cornwell said in an email to the AP. "But, obviously, this is not a perfect result."
Other players eligible for the supplemental draft are: defensive backs Torez Jones of Western Carolina and Tracy Wilson of Northern Illinois, defensive ends Keenan Mace of Lindenwood and Mike McAdoo of North Carolina and running back Caleb King of Georgia.
Rosenhaus said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith worked together on the decision. Pryor will have a pro day Saturday in Pittsburgh for all 32 NFL teams, and he'll work out, throw and take part in agility drills similar to what he would do at the NFL combine.
"I think also he'll score a lot of points in terms of his personality and his maturity," Rosenhaus said. "Wherever he's drafted, we will sign and get a deal done and play ball this year, so we're looking forward to that."
Rosenhaus added that despite having to sit out five games, Pryor will benefit from being at the headquarters for whichever team drafts him and being able to take part in meetings.
"He's putting all of this behind him and he has learned a lot from the mistakes he has made in the past and is excited about starting fresh and getting his career going," Rosenhaus said. "As soon as he gets picked, he'll be on an airplane and be going right to work."
A star with the Buckeyes for three years, Pryor and several teammates were suspended for the first five games of this season for receiving improper benefits from a Columbus tattoo-parlor owner. The quarterback subsequently left school, hoping he'd be eligible for the supplemental draft.
The supplemental draft allows qualified underclassmen who did not request early entry into the regular draft to have a chance at entering the NFL.
The NFL informed all 32 teams last Thursday that the supplemental draft would be held this Wednesday, but then postponed that a few days later. Pryor was not on the NFL's initial list of players, but was included Thursday. In the supplemental draft, teams submit picks and are awarded players if their bid for which round they would take that player is highest. Teams then lose the corresponding pick in the following year's regular draft in April.
Some of the more notable supplemental draft picks since 1977 include Bernie Kosar, Brian Bosworth, Cris Carter, Steve Walsh, Rob Moore, Jamal Williams and Jared Gaither.
If he hadn't been ruled eligible, Pryor would have had to wait until next April for the 2012 draft.
"The NFL's concern all along was protecting the integrity of the draft process," Cornwell said. "We understood their concerns, accept that they are legitimate concerns, and worked through the process to demonstrate that Terrelle's decisions regarding making himself eligible were reasonable, if not perfect. The commissioner gave serious consideration to the various issues and decided to balance those issues by allowing Terrelle into the supplemental draft with conditions."
Pryor, regarded as the nation's top quarterback recruit coming out of high school, had three terrific seasons for the Buckeyes. Ohio State's career-leading rusher among quarterbacks also tied a school mark with 57 touchdown passes.
New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes, a former Ohio State star, was wearing a red Buckeyes cap Thursday. He said he didn't follow Pryor closely during the quarterback's time at Ohio State, but was excited when he heard about the decision by the league.
"I'm proud of him," Holmes said. "I thought he did a great job while he was there. The things that he had to overcome thus far can be pushed behind and hopefully he can start a better career here in the NFL."
As a freshman, Pryor led Ohio State to an 8-1 record as a starter and was the Big Ten freshman of the year. He took the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title the following season and a victory in the Rose Bowl. He was named the game's MVP after Ohio State beat Oregon 26-17.
As a junior, Pryor had his best season statistically, throwing for 2,772 yards and 27 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. He also ran for 754 yards and four scores while helping the Buckeyes to a 31-26 victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.
But shortly before the Sugar Bowl, it was revealed that Pryor and other players traded Buckeyes memorabilia for cash and discounted tattoos. In the following months it became clear that coach Jim Tressel knew about the improper benefits in the spring of 2010 but didn't inform his bosses, as was required under his contract and NCAA rules. Tressel was forced out of his job May 30 and Pryor left Ohio State soon after.
Now, Pryor will get a chance to move forward and start his NFL career.
"He's as good an athlete as there's been at that position," Rosenhaus said. "... I think he's going to be a very accomplished quarterback and a dynamite player in the NFL."