ALAMEDA – The question was put to Terrelle Pryor by a student at Iron Horse Middle School in San Ramon during a Raiders community visit in late March.
Why had the two-sport recruit selected football over basketball out of high school? The answer had nothing to do with the thrill of a touchdown pass as compared to a dunk.
"There's just something about having 10 guys looking at you, expecting you to lead them," Pryor said. "I love that."
At the time, Carson Palmer was still the quarterback, with the Raiders a few weeks away from trading him to the Arizona Cardinals and bringing in Matt Flynn.
It was a decision that ultimately led to Pryor becoming the starting quarterback, given Flynn's struggles and Pryor's undeniable skills and rapid improvement.
Pryor, who leads the Raiders (3-5) into today's game against the New York Giants (2-6) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., takes his role as a leader seriously.
When the Raiders returned to practice last week following a 49-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Pryor made sure he did so with a bounce in his step, even after missing time in the fourth quarter because of a strained knee.
"It's just a leadership thing," Pryor said. "Some guys may come in and be kind of sluggish and not really feeling it. ... It's about setting positive examples and getting guys to gather around and believe. We let that game slip, but let's go get the next one."
When the Raiders signed Jeff George in 1997, then-coach Joe Bugel scoffed at the notion that the team would miss the leadership of the departed Jeff Hostetler because, "Leadership is throwing touchdowns."
In the wake of the Miami harassment story involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson pulled aside Pryor, backup Matt McGloin and practice squad quarterback Tyler Wilson to remind them that being the quarterback goes beyond throwing touchdown passes.
"It's important they are constantly aware that all eyes and ears in the building are on them in terms of how they're preparing," he said.
Wide receiver Rod Streater said Pryor often requests that receivers stay after meetings.
"He'll grab receivers and tight ends and want to work on things," Streater said. "He always brings the guys together to do extra stuff."
While Raiders coach Dennis Allen said ultimately it's the responsibility of the head coach to take care of locker-room issues such as what occurred in Miami, Pryor believes the quarterback is responsible as well.
Pryor went so far as to compliment Martin for "standing up and being a man" and added, "I believe the quarterback is responsible for in-house locker-room (issues) and quieting situations down. I believe he is the one that people are going to listen to."
It's a role Pryor believes extends to outside the locker room.
"There are so many situations that pop up," he said. "Your teammate has a drink, and you say, 'Hey, maybe you should take a cab. Come take a cab with me.' Something small like that can get you so much respect from your teammate that you stopped and helped him."
Said Olson: "With Terrelle, I think it's going to be part of the growth process, but I think he embraces that and is trying to establish himself as a leader."