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Price's roller coaster takes another turn
May 22, 2018 06:05 AM | Geoff Hobson
Billy Price signs his deal Monday.

This is the deal behind the deal.

David Cole, born on the first day of 1943 and gone before Billy Price played in a New Year's Week bowl for Ohio State, still loomed on Monday's scene.

His grandson signs an NFL contract before lunch and among the matters scrolling through his mind (lunch, finding a house, a 1:30 rookies meeting, offensive line coach Frank Pollack's assignments) his grandfather is on the list.

"When I lost him my senior year in high school, it re-structured your world around what actually happened," Price says over said lunch. "I know he's looking down and he's happy and he's proud of what's been going on. The roller coaster of life itself, there are moments when you wish you could take that back, or you wish you could say something or wish you didn't do something, but in the end, things work themselves out."

Just because you start 55 straight games for David Cole's beloved Buckeyes and you get drafted in the first round by one of the hometown teams in Cincinnati's Bengals and are anointed immediately as the Opening Day center and you put down an envelope worth $11.7 million over the next four years next to your Stromboli doesn't mean you're exempt from the roller coaster.

Even though his parents divorced young, Price had everyone in his life growing up on the outskirts of Youngstown, Ohio. But it was the punch-the-General-Motors-clock-work ethic of his grandfather that Price modeled.

Two days before Christmas Price drove from his side of Austintown to the other to check on his grandfather in his home. After finding him dead of a heart attack spawned by Arrhythmia a week shy of 70, Price recalls going into "a dark place."

The roller coaster doesn't care if you're a star or a fan, rich or poor, offense or defense, center or guard. It took time, but Price emerged because his grandfather demanded it. As if he were supervising Billy around the house with those outside chores. Cutting the lawn. Trimming the yard. Raking the leaves. There would be no half-assing it, is the way his grandson recalls it.

"You don't slack off because your house is a representation of you," Price says. "If you're going to do it, put your best effort into it."

Marvin Lewis is smiling because he and his coaches coveted Price's intangibles.

This is the reason the Bengals coveted Price in last month's draft. Sure, they loved his athleticism and his experience and his versatility at all three inside spots. All that was great. But it was the intangibles that won them over. The daily commitment to the job. The knack for leadership. The David Cole stuff.

The 10 voluntary on-field practices start Tuesday and Price doesn't figure to be practicing until the start of training camp as they take it slowly with his surgically- repaired shoulder.

But in last week's rookie minicamp he had been as advertised. Rambunctious in drills. Making sure he's in the middle of the walk-throughs. Leaning hard into his fellow offensive players. Full tilt. Expect more of the same in Tuesday's non-scrimmage looks.

"I'm going to do as much as I can during this time," he says. "Going to see if the trainers will cut me loose more this time."

Cole returned to Youngstown from Texas to retire when Price was about eight or nine, just when he and his brother and sister were reaching the formative years. He had worked his way through GM from shift manager to foreman to plant manager. He then began developing plants and they sent him to Laredo, Texas as a project head taking the lead in building factories and working on both sides of the border.

"He dealt with all kinds of people. It was incredible," Price says. "He got to be 60 and me and my brother and sister were starting to play sports and growing up and I just think he wanted to experience being a grandad and being around us."

Even though he was retired, that didn't stop Price from watching him live.

"Anything he put his name to was a 100-percent effort," Price says. "That's something I really I admired. "I said, 'OK, if I'm going to represent, it better be the best version I can make it.'"

Cole was a three-sport star at Fitch High School 50 years before his grandson would go there and win the football scholarship to Ohio State. His game was baseball, a shortstop and pitcher who didn't go to the next level. He went into the Army, served in Germany, and returned home to begin the climb through GM with a young family.

"It was a different time," Price says. "He had a household to support."

He didn't tell his grandkid what to play or how to play. "He was just there to support me." He made every recruiting visit with Price and, well, he may have tipped his hand there.

"He loved Ohio State. It made it easy for me," Price says. "I knew where I wanted to go. He did to. It was easy. What is it about Ohio State? Best university on the map."

The line in David Cole's obit said it all. "He was so proud and excited that his grandson, Billy was starting this coming season with the Ohio State Buckeyes."

"He would be excited now," Price says.

"When you put your name on something to represent something, do it to your best ability. Make sure it's done and it's done the best. So when folks say, 'OK, who did that? I'm proud to say, hey it was me. Not just someone skating through life and half-assing things."

Price is finishing his lunch. He looks at the clock. That 1:30 rookies meeting.

"It's 27," he says. "Got to go."

David Cole is going to.

"He'd be very proud and he'd be all over me about making sure I'm not spending my money and doing all kinds of stuff and how he was," Price says.

That's the deal behind the deal. The roller coaster keeps moving.



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