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Making The Switch: How Terrelle Pryor Sr. Went From Raiders Quarterback To Redskins Wide Receiver

Posted Sep 22, 2017

The Raiders were the team that brought Terrelle Pryor Sr. into the NFL, as he played quarterback for Oakland for a few seasons. Now he's one of the Redskins' starting wide receivers with a 1,000-yard receiving season under his belt.

The Raiders were the team that brought Terrelle Pryor Sr. into the NFL, as he played quarterback for Oakland for a few seasons. Now he's one of the Redskins' starting wide receivers with a 1,000-yard receiving season under his belt.

It’s a transition few have ever made and almost none have seen the same sort of early returns.

Terrelle Pryor Sr. was best known as an Ohio State-turned-NFL quarterback who didn’t quite pan out in the professional ranks.

Selected in the third round of the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft, Pryor produced mediocre results in his two seasons as a quarterback for the Oakland Raiders. Between the 2012-13 seasons, Pryor completed 56 percent of his pass attempts with just nine touchdown passes to 12 interceptions.

With the Raiders in the market for a future franchise quarterback, Pryor was traded to the Seattle Seahawks in April 2014.

Despite offseason roster stints with the Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns, Pryor wouldn’t appear in an NFL game again until Week 17 of the 2015 season: as a wide receiver.

With his desire to continue playing football, Pryor elected to make the switch to wide receiver. It turned an NFL career in jeopardy into one of the best success stories of the 2016 season, as Pryor totaled 77 receptions for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns with the Browns. He posted these numbers despite having almost no stability from Cleveland’s quarterback position.

“Not many people have ever done it before, but he is a big, physical, great athlete,” said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. “And it helps to be 6-foot-5 and run a 4.3 40 [yard dash]. I think had he made this decision sooner in his career, I think he’d be further along. But being that he just made it not too long ago, he’s where he is. I mean, he’s still one of the top guys in the league and he just started playing. He’s a physical freak.”

Indeed, others who have gone from quarterback to wide receiver haven’t had 1,000-yard seasons like Pryor. Former Redskins wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, for example, went from a college quarterback at Indiana to NFL wideout. But he never posted more than 730 receiving yards in any of his nine professional seasons.

“Most former quarterbacks, you put them in a situation where now they are getting hit a lot more, exposed a lot to a lot more situations in terms of the physical aspect of the game. You think they tend to turn a lot of stuff down; he doesn’t do that,” said Redskins wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard. “He plays the game aggressively and he’s made the transition well.”

But the transition wasn’t exactly as it looked on the field last year. Pryor had to learn some of the simplest traits of the position, let alone prepare for seasoned NFL defensive backs starring him down.

“Tim Cortazzo, my trainer, he spent three, four hours a day, not just outside running routes but also going indoors running around cones because I really didn’t know how to handle my body, I didn’t know how to adjust my body, I didn’t know how to take control of myself,” Pryor said. “Now I’m at the point where I can control my body, I know where I’m going, I know what I want to do to the defender, I know how to stare at the guy in his eyes and make him think that I’m doing something else and then try to do something else. That’s what I continue to get better at, stuff like that.”

While he’s now known as a wide receiver, his background at the quarterback position hasn’t gone to waste. On the contrary, he’s benefitted from knowing what it’s like to be the one in charge of an offense.

“I just like the fact that he’s a very bright guy, understands coverages, understands where the ball should go and route concepts, which is very big,” Gruden said. “He is a very smart receiver, now it’s just about polishing up the little things and the details of each route and we’re working with him on that.”

Polishing up the intricacies hasn’t been perfect for Pryor, as would be the case for any player making a change in their 20s after spending their entire upbringing at a different position.

Pryor was active on social media during the offseason showcasing his hard work, posting almost daily his progress. Some days, of course, were better than others. But the 28-year-old wanted to show people that his success last season was no fluke.

“When you go and have an excellent season or do some great things, people know why,” Pryor said of his workout videos on social media. “Little kids know why. Maybe that’ll get kids outside to work out more and work hard – people that look up to me, people that I inspire. So I think that’s another reason that’s a little deeper for me.”

Late in the offseason, Pryor posted a series of workout videos that showed him both following and competing with All-Pro Antonio Brown.

“When I talk about a freak mind – like a weirdo freak in terms of everything has to be perfect – watching Antonio work out, it just changed my whole mindset of how you’re supposed to be as a wideout,” Pryor said. “It’s just the little details. I was telling you guys earlier, he’ll do three, four reps in a row and then he’ll take a break because that next rep he wants that to be 100 percent and he wants it to be perfect. And that’s all you want to do is chase perfection and that’s what I’m looking forward to and I’m just going to continue to grow from that standpoint.”

While his workout posts have decreased now that the season has arrived, his mindset in terms of hard work pays off hasn’t.

During the preseason, Pryor would spend as much as 30 minutes after practice working with starting quarterback Kirk Cousins.

“As soon as we got done with practice, I came over to Kirk and I was like ‘Hey, let’s get this route,’ and he was like ‘Man, you read my mind. I was about to grab you,’” Pryor said last month. “We started hitting it and then we started clicking and making it work and we started hitting them every time.”

Cousins was appreciative of Pryor’s request to spend extra time together.

“I think we’ve said it all along that one of the benefits of working with Terrelle is that he just really loves football,” Cousins said. “And that’s evident with the fact that he wants to stay after practice, he wants to talk about the routes and the nuances of it. I think, again, what some of the stuff we’re working on goes back to the fact that, as good as he is, as talented as he is, there’s still a lot more there.

“We think that as he continues to fine tune and understand what we want to do here in our offense, he hopefully can just keep getting better and better. I enjoy playing with him and I take it upon myself to get him the football, give him opportunities. He’s so talented, and he has such a good heart and works so hard, I want to make sure he’s given a chance to be really successful and have a great year this year.”

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