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A second chance at life: Fitch grad, former NFL lineman Price talks retirement

AP file photos On left: Then-Ohio State center Billy Price gets set to snap the ball against Michigan State in 2017. On right: Then-Cincinnati Bengals center Billy Price surveys the defense prior to the snap against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018.

Billy Price is lucky to be alive.

At age 29 and in the prime of his football career, the NFL offensive lineman had spent this past winter and spring preparing for the upcoming NFL season.

After spending time on the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys’ practice squads during the 2023 season, the Austintown Fitch alum and Ohio State product was hoping to find another landing spot for 2024.

However, in the blink of an eye, everything changed.

At the end of April, Price was outside in his yard with his 1-year-old son Hudson putting away sprinklers after he and his wife, Taylor, had installed a new yard at their home earlier in the spring. Despite the relatively simple and menial task, Price suddenly began to experience respiratory distress.

“I was having some difficulty breathing, and I couldn’t get my heart rate to slow down,” Price said in an interview with the Tribune Chronicle and Vindicator. “I was feeling super muscularly fatigued.”

At first, Price brushed it off. He waited two days before finally going to his local urgent care, hoping to get answers.

With symptoms like shortness of breath, muscle fatigue and lightheadedness, the urgent care wasn’t able to determine Price’s issue, so he was transferred to the local emergency room.

The doctors did some tests and discovered that Price had what’s called an unprovoked saddle pulmonary embolism, which is a large blood clot that blocks blood flow to both lungs. After an ultrasound on his legs, Price’s doctors discovered that he also had a second clot in his leg.

“I was terrified, truly,” Price said. “Being an athlete and somebody who’s pretty in control and understands your body, to then be put into having a potentially catastrophic and lethal episode or occurrence — call it what you want, most people die from this — that’s something that shakes you to your core.”

Price was immediately taken into surgery and after the procedure was given blood thinners to help reduce the likelihood of recurrence in the future.

“I bawled my eyes out coming home as I got released from the hospital, just holding my son,” Price said. “I might not have held him again if I didn’t go, or if I pushed off going to urgent care or the emergency room another day, I might not have held my son again.”

The medical emergency left Price having to reevaluate his priorities, his career and his future.

“They said that your opportunity and likelihood of playing again is very low without recurrence,” Price said.

He sought out other opinions to help him decide how to proceed. He consulted with doctors at Ohio State, some local doctors, as well as some NFL medical experts he knew from his time in the league.

But football is a violent game, and the thought of not being able to see his son grow up left Price with one conclusion — retirement. So on May 25, the six-year NFL veteran officially announced that he was retiring from football.

“An internal bleed can be lethal for me. I get hit in the rib one time, all of a sudden, there’s an internal bruise that could, if it was bad enough, could be lethal,” Price said. “The thought of me not being able to walk off the field successfully after a practice or after a game was enough for me to say, ‘OK, I got another chapter in this life.’ I was given a second chance, and I wanted to make sure that I’m going to watch my kids grow up, be a grandfather one day and enjoy being a father right now.”

Even though he’s still young, Price has had a long and decorated football career.

At Fitch as a defensive lineman, Price earned First-Team All-State honors and was named Ohio’s Division I Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 during his senior season.

As a four-star recruit, he committed and went to Ohio State over offers from Michigan, Notre Dame and Tennessee, where he redshirted his freshman season. The next year, as the team’s starting left guard on the offensive line, he helped lead the Buckeyes to win the inaugural CFP National Championship in 2014.

“I think we showed immense growth throughout the entire year,” Price said. “Week-by-week, the team, and the offensive line in particular, got stronger and got better. Just to cap it all off by beating Oregon at AT&T Stadium in Dallas is just incredible. To look back on how the college football playoffs have developed since the first year, it’s incredible. So for us to be the first national champions of the College Football Playoff era, that’s something that will go down in the history books forever.”

Price played his first three seasons at Ohio State at guard before moving to center as a senior. That final year in Columbus, he won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center and was a unanimous All-American before being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 21st overall pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

“I don’t think luck has anything to do with it,” Price said of making it to the NFL and playing professional football. “It’s not coming off as arrogant, but there was a lot of hard work, discipline and sacrifice that it takes to get to be in that position. To get the opportunity to be in that position, I think this is something that has to be acknowledged. There were plenty of times where I could have gone out partying in high school or college or got myself in with a bad crowd, but chose not to and stayed disciplined to the task and some of the things I had envisioned for myself.”

He spent each of his first three seasons with the Bengals before being traded to the New York Giants in 2021. After that, he spent time with the Las Vegas Raiders and the Arizona Cardinals, before finishing his career with the Saints and Cowboys last year.

Throughout his career, Price was viewed by teams as a “plug and fill” center because of his “consistency” and his ability to pick up a new playbook quickly and still be able to go out on the field and run things efficiently.

“To be drafted to a home (state) team in Cincinnati was phenomenal,” Price said. “Being in Ohio for my entire beginning of my football career, it was truly an honor. It was just an incredible opportunity. The way the journey continues to take you to different places you’re able to go, and the coaching staffs and exposure to different offenses and programs and people and networking, it was and still is a blessing. But a lot of hard work went into that for sure, and a lot of sacrifice.”

With his playing career now behind him, Price is looking forward to spending more time with his family while continuing to work on his health and towards his Masters of Business Administration at the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University.

Further down the road, Price can see himself still being involved with football in some way.

“I think I have a lot of wisdom, experience and obviously a lot of passion for the game,” Price said. “This will be the first time in 11 years that I have not had to get ready for training camp — five years in college, six years in the pros. So I think it will definitely be different for me. I also know that football has done so much for me, so I think the next generation will be great to give back to. What that looks like, I don’t know. I’d love to get into college athletics, whether it be coaching or doing some internal things, that I have to decide.”

The Austintown community and greater Youngstown area still hold a special place in Price’s heart. His father is still the equipment manager for the Falcons.

Price has participated in fundraisers and made donations over the years, including donating a seven-man sled for Fitch’s offensive line to use during practice. Then earlier this year, he donated new white Nike uniforms for the Falcons.

“Fitch’s saying is ‘Feed the Nest,’ so I think giving back to the area and supporting the kids just shows that no matter what success levels you have as an individual, once you leave this area, home is always home,” Price said. “My family is still up in Youngstown, so it means a lot to me. There’s just a sense of pride. I still have great relationships with my teachers, guidance counselors, principals, and we still communicate via Facebook and whatnot. So no matter how many miles or how many hours I am from home, it’s still very important to make sure you give back.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Neel Madhavan by email at nmadhavan@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @NeelMadhavan.

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