Batch mentors Heisman Trophy hopeful Terrelle Pryor
As soon as Terrelle Pryor heard Charlie Batch was getting the starting nod at quarterback for the Steelers, he instantly fired off a text message that read, "I hear a guy named Charlie B. is about to lead the Steelers to another victory."
Batch followed with a short, gracious response.
Over the past seven years, that's about the extent of the football talk that goes back and forth between the Heisman hopeful Ohio State quarterback and his longtime mentor.
When it comes to everything else — school work, responsibilities, decision-making and life in general — Batch has plenty of advice for Pryor.
"We all know he can play football, I am not concerned with that," Batch said. "Football is the last thing we talk about. I am worried about him as a person and making sure that he is OK. Everybody else can talk about football with him."
Having a strong personal relationship with a 13-year veteran professional quarterback such as Batch would seemingly be the perfect fit for Pryor to throw football questions at him repeatedly, but the conversation rarely goes down that path.
"I know I am one of the few who he knows that if he asks the tough question, he will get a tough answer," Batch said.
And Pryor doesn't mind at all.
"There are people out there who try to take advantage of you," Pryor said. "There are a lot of these bad people around, and it is just nice to have a good guy in your ear who has been there and done that."
For Pryor, having a mentor is something new.
For Batch, it's old hat.
Ever since establishing his Best of the Batch Foundation in his hometown of Homestead nearly a decade ago, Batch has mentored many young people from the area, and a lot have come for the Project C.H.U.C.K basketball tournament he holds every summer.
"That's what I do; that's how I spend my summer," Batch said. "If you want to know where I am from the second week of June through the third week of July, I am there five days a week and those kids are around me every single day."
Pryor wasn't the first and won't be the last, but he happened to be the most notable player Batch took under his wing.
Even though Batch's brother married Pryor's cousin, the two never really had a relationship until Pryor's freshman year of high school when he took part in Batch's basketball tournament. At the time, Pryor was still enrolled at nearby West Mifflin High School. He later transferred to Jeannette.
"We really just started to hit it off and started talking a lot," Pryor said. "I went over to his house a bunch of times and we would have some cookouts and stuff like that."
When Pryor became one of the hottest football recruits, he asked for Batch's help. Batch was there every step of the way during the tedious recruiting process that eventually led Pryor to Ohio State.
"A lot of people don't know that," Batch said. "A lot of people thought I picked up the phone and said 'Hey, you need some help.' It didn't happen that way. We had a relationship well before he was the top recruit and player in the country.
"I didn't meet him as a football player. I met him as Terrelle."
Now that Pryor has turned into one of the top quarterbacks in the country in his junior year, he appreciates his relationship with Batch even more.
"Charlie means a lot to me," Pryor said. "He is probably the best contact I have in my phone, and I have a lot of good contacts. Anytime I get a chance to talk to him, he is just a great guy. He is a family member of mine and just a great guy, a great mentor and a great guy to be around."
Not a week goes by that the two don't talk on the phone. Even though Batch has a lot less free time since taking over the Steelers' starting quarterback job last week, he always finds time for Pryor.
"He will call and check on me just to make sure I am doing OK," Pryor said. "Sometimes his girlfriend (Latasha Wilson) will send me a care package or some school stuff. It is just cool to have those kinds of people around me."
Wilson was supposed to be in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend to watch Pryor take on Batch's alma mater, Eastern Michigan. Plans changed when she learned Batch was going to start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Pryor took it out on Batch's school as he threw four touchdown passes, ran for a TD and caught one in a 73-20 rout of Eastern Michigan.
"He has been one of the good things that happened to me," Pryor said. "He is a guy I can lean on and a guy I can get advice on and off the field. He is the best role model you can possibly have."