OSU center’s journey from fan to pro coming full circle
By Dan Hiner
Ohio State center Billy Price returned to the Mahoning Valley on March 3 for an autograph signing at Everything Buckeyes in the Eastwood Mall.
But it wasn’t the same Price that graduated from Austintown Fitch in 2013.
This new version of Price has matured, not just as a football player, but as a person.
Mason Darby, a fourth grader from Austintown, got a chance to meet Price at the signing. Darby said it was “awesome” after he got a chance to talk to the All-American from his home town. “He came from where I was and got to Ohio State,” Darby said.
For Price, this was one of the biggest differences when he returned from Columbus.
He’s now a role model — someone young fans and future football players look up to and admire. He understands a fan’s perspective because he was a fan once as well.
“It’s huge. It’s a huge responsibility,” Price said. “You can’t take that lightly at all. You got these young kids who are inspired to be in your position one day, but again, I was the kid at one time. Looking up to John Simon, looking up to the stars around this area. I think it was a moment for these young kids who idolize and look up to me at times. I’m still human, I’m still a person they can talk to, I’m no different than they are and I’m no different than most others.”
Price described his growth on and off the field as “night and day.”
“The boy I left in Austintown and the man I returned five years later are two completely different people,” Price said. “From a physical aspect, mental aspect, emotional — the highs and lows of growing up. The maturation process is very unreal,” Price said. “You go into college knowing a good amount, and you leave college going ‘Wow! I didn’t know anything going into the college experience.’”
Price is considered by many to be the first center taken in the 2018 NFL Draft in April. The next center off the board could be James Daniels, a former Warren Harding graduate and Iowa Hawkeye.
The Daniels and Price families know each other well. Price played against James and older brother LeShun Daniels at Ohio State. LeShun Daniels played running back at Iowa and finished the 2017 season with the Washington Redskins.
“I think it’s huge. It’s two guys from the same area. For the record, [James Daniels] never pancaked me, just putting that out there,” Price said. “It’s truly a humbling experience. Two guys, Warren versus Austintown, and coming from this area, we did it the right way. [We] weren’t guys who were in the spotlight because we got in trouble, drug problems or alcohol or whatever happened off the field. But [we’re] guys who put their nose to the grind, worked hard, accepted the grind and understood it knew what it took. We’re a great representation of this area.”
Price attended the NFL Combine which ran from Feb. 27 through March 5, but he was unable to finish his workouts after suffering a small tear in his left pectoral during the bench press.
He received a second opinion and repeatedly said the tear was minor and wasn’t a concern.
Price is training with former Ohio State center LeCharles Bentley in Chandler, Ariz. Bentley played five seasons with the New Orleans Saints and signed with the Cleveland Browns before suffering a career-ending injury during training camp in 2006.
Bentley runs LB O-Line Performance, a year-round program tailored specifically to offensive linemen. In recent years, the program worked with players like former New York Giants guard Geoff Schwartz and Redskins’ guard Shawn Lauvao.
“[Bentley] is a wealth of knowledge — understanding how the body moves, playing physical, angles of your body, understanding how to put force to the ground efficiently and really cleaning up you technique,” Price said. “You get to watch film, you get to watch him do these things, you get to watch him be a professional and get to teach us workouts every single day. You’re on a job interview every day.”
With the Combine out of the way, there’s still a lot of work Price needs to put in prior to the Draft. Ohio State’s pro day is scheduled for March 22. He said he’s unsure how much he can participate due to his injury, but will attend the pro day to support his teammates.
Price said the key to success as a NFL prospect is to “embrace the burn” and enjoy the process.
“You’re a month away from taking that next step and significantly changing our life,” Price said. “But the longer road is coming up. You’re gonna get selected by a team and work hard and your career as a football player, something you’ve dreamt about since you were a young boy — something you said as a young boy, is literally just a couple months away.”