No one could believe what just happened. The referees stared at each other and shrugged, not knowing whether they should raise their arms and motion "touchdown." The Jeannette High coaches didn't know how to react, either. They were waiting for the referees to signal something. Terrelle Pryor was nonchalant as he rose to his feet 3 yards into the end zone, as if what he did was routine.
What Pryor did was leap clear over a defensive back to score a touchdown. That was back when the 6-6, 225-pound senior quarterback was a sophomore. Pryor's legend has grown since then, and it has spread nationally.
The gifted Pryor finds himself the most-sought high school football player in the country. He led Jeannette to its first PIAA Class AA state football championship last Saturday, routing Dunmore, 49-21, at Hersheypark Stadium to finish the Jayhawks' season 16-0.
It also concluded a very amazing season for Pryor, who doesn't come off the field for the Jayhawks. He ended his magnificent career as the only high school player in Pennsylvania history to eclipse the 4,000-yard barrier in both passing and rushing, throwing for 4,249 yards and running for 4,250 yards. Remember, this is the same state that has produced such high school stars as Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly.
In the state championship game, Pryor rushed for a touchdown, threw for a touchdown, even caught a touchdown pass - and provided a huge block that opened a path for another score on a punt return. He rushed for 209 yards on just 12 carries and also completed three of four passes for 83 yards. Led by Pryor, Jeannette scored a Pennsylvania record for most points scored in a season, 860, eclipsing the mark of 755 set by Southern Columbia last year.
Now begins another process. Major schools are jockeying to sign Pryor, who is considering Penn State, Ohio State, Florida, Oregon and Michigan. Michigan takes the place of West Virginia, since the Mountaineers lost head coach Rich Rodriguez to the Wolverines last weekend.
Think that had a little something to do with Rodriguez being hired by Michigan?
Pryor seems to have that kind of command over the football landscape. His influence has grown so far beyond Jeannette, a blue-collar, glass-factory town just outside of Pittsburgh, that cars with license plates from Virginia, Ohio and Maryland made the trek Saturday to see Pryor play in Hershey.
If you've never seen him, he is a player anyone living in the Philadelphia area can relate to: a high school version of Randall Cunningham. Pryor has that same long-flowing, velvety, high release. He becomes even more dangerous when he leaves the pocket, with an incredible ability to create something from nothing.
"In my eyes, Terrelle is the best I've seen playing and coaching," Jayhawks coach Ray Reitz said. "The real scary part is that there is a lot more to him than what he's shown. Growing up, Terrelle was always a head taller than everybody his age, and he could always run. I always thought the other kids would eventually catch up when they got older. They didn't."
The beauty about Pryor, Reitz said, is that he never likes coming in second. What spurred that fervor even more was when Jeannette lost to Wilson last year in the state championship game.
"Terrelle smells blood, his mind kicks in and now you've lit the furnace," Reitz said. "Terrelle was unselfish last year, and through maturity, he had a better understanding of the offense this year. But I think it was the loss to Wilson that put a hunger in Terrelle's mind. He developed into our leader."
In the meantime, Pryor, 18, loves the attention.
"Who wouldn't love this?" Pryor asked. "I just go about my business and talk to who I have to talk to, reporters, people who ask me where I'm going.
"It can sometimes get out of hand, but the way I see it, it's an experience, all this attention from colleges and the media, from fans, that every kid should experience. I'd rather be on this side of things than not getting any calls at all. I'm the same person I was before all this. The phone calls, the letters, the TV attention, that won't change me."
Pryor has an interesting dilemma. He also is a standout basketball player, considered among the top 50 in the country. But he's beginning to lean strongly toward one sport.
"I would like to try to play both football and basketball, but right now I'd like to try to concentrate more on football in college. But if basketball comes up, I'll do both," Pryor said. "I can see myself in both one day, the NFL and the NBA. But it will be tough in college, doing both. The physical and academic demands would be pretty great."
He's interested in the best fit - but a team that runs a spread offense is very appealing. It's what Oregon runs, which is why the Ducks are making such a strong late push. Rodriguez can also alter Michigan's offense to suit Pryor, who could start as a freshman.
"My focus will be on basketball season, and we'll see what happens Feb. 6, when I plan to make a decision," Pryor said. "I want to be comfortable at the school with the coaches and the team there. That's what will decide it for me. I'll look at the kind of offense teams run. I want to play quarterback in college and somewhere where coaches can get me to the NFL. All I can say is that I wanted to leave a landmark before I left high school."
He has. *