By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
Click here to receive Gregg Bell Unleashed via email each week.
July 25, 2012
It's telling - and refreshing -- about Keith Price that the best time Washington's record-setting passer had going to the Pac-12 Conference's media day this week was not while getting to be the face and voice of the 2012 Huskies. It wasn't while hobnobbing at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, either.
It was hanging out with his devoted, extended family in his hometown of Compton - and especially showing Huskies teammate Desmond Trufant his favorite food: Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles.
"I took Desmond to Roscoe's (Monday) night. And now he loves it!" Price told me with a laugh Tuesday morning, as he rode on a shuttle van to Universal Studios' Gibson Amphitheater to begin a talk-a-thon.
Roscoe's off Manchester in Inglewood is da bomb for the down-home Price. Media day?
"It's not all it's cracked up to be," he said, wryly.
This should tell you even more about the Huskies' dynamic, dazzling junior quarterback - specifically about his competitiveness, his desire to get even better than he was in 2011 during his smashing debut as UW's starting quarterback:
He learned and grew more this month while working in Louisiana with two of the best quarterbacks of our time, Peyton and Eli Manning.
He learned and grew more this month while working with Peyton and Eli Manning.
Offseason? For Price, there's no such thing.
He's beyond ready for the Huskies to begin fall practices in less than two weeks, on Aug. 6.
"Oh, man, I can't wait," Price says. "It seems like I've been grindin' for a while now."
Two weeks ago, while many college players joined the rest of us in a lazy summer, Price joined USC's Matt Barkley and other top college quarterbacks as camp counselors at the four-day Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La. The campers were 1,200 high school quarterbacks and receivers that came to Nicholls State University, near where the Mannings grew up in New Orleans.
And to think: A year ago at this time Price was just trying to show he could adequately replace Jake Locker.
Now he's hanging with Super Bowl winners and NFL MVPs.
"Peyton and Eli were great. They came with us to all the social events in the evenings," Price said.
"All the quarterbacks had a big meeting on Saturday, film work. And they were there," he said of the Mannings, including their 63-year-old father Archie, a two-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and 1989 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame. "They showed us different ways to prepare and how to plan to be good, how to manage your time."
Price set UW records for touchdown passes, season completion percentage (66.9 percent) and pass efficiency (161.09) in 2011. He set a national major-college postseason record by rushing and passing for seven combined touchdowns in the last game he's played, December's Alamo Bowl. And now he is being mentioned by some as a Heisman Trophy candidate for 2012.
So all that plus four days with the Mannings, Barkley and friends must have KP17 feeling elite himself heading into this season, right?
"Not really. I just know I have some more work to go," Price said.
Then the ever-driven, ever-smiling Husky laughed and thought of Barkley, who most consider the favorrite for this season's Heisman.
"I know who the top guy is," Price said.
PEYTON, ELI - AND KEITH
Price, Barkley and the college QBs guided the high school guys through morning and evening practices July 12-15 at Nicholls State University. They took advantage of between-practices time to discuss their craft with what is probably the best-ever sibling combination at the quarterback position.
I asked Price what he learned most while with the Manning brothers.
"I learned a lot. First off, I learned I can't wear my jeans in Louisiana," Price said, chuckling. "Oh my God, it's sooooo hot there. Man!"
So his Sean Johns will stay behind when Price makes the send trip of his life to the Bayou State, for the Huskies' showdown at LSU Sept. 8.
"Oh, man, we're going to have to go down two weeks early to get used to it for that game," he joked.
Price set UW records for touchdown passes, season completion percentage and pass efficiency in 2011.
As for what might help him and the Huskies this season on the field, Price learned specific pointers from Peyton Manning. He just signed with the Denver Broncos after becoming an MVP and title-winning icon with the Indianapolis Colts. He is coming off an entire year lost to a neck injury.
When the 36-year-old Manning wasn't getting his passing and health scrutinized by the media at his own academy, he was advising Price on timing and patience with his throws.
"Peyton, man, he's always on with his throws! Always!" Price said. "He always knows his wide receivers and adjusts to them."
"It was good to work with high school receivers. It was a reminder you have to wait, be patient on the routes. You can't be in a hurry."
Price got to the Manning Passing Academy because of Steve Calhoun, the quarterback guru with whom Price goes home to work in the summers around Los Angeles. Calhoun is friends with Buddy Teevens, the former coach at Stanford and now the coach at Dartmouth. Teevens is the Manning Passing Academy's associate director.
"I paid for my flight, then (the passing academy) reimburses you the money by you working at the camp," Price said.
While there, Price buddied up with Barkley, West Virginia's Geno Smith, Washington State's Jeff Tuel, Alabama's AJ McCarron, Georgia's Aaron Murray, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Tennesee's Tyler Bray and other quarterbacks that, like Price, have made preseason watch lists for national player-of-the-year awards.
"I got to know a lot of those guys off the field, just hanging out," UW's record holder with 33 touchdown throws last season said. "It was a great time.
"Oh, yeah, it definitely was an honor being there and being with those guys. Of course, I already knew Matt and Jeff."
Yes, there was so much Kumbaya going on at the Manning camp that even Huskies and Cougars got along.
Price spent much of his free time with Tuel. Turns out the trigger men and field leaders for the Dawgs and Cougs, co-members of the 34-man watch list for the 2012 Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top quarterback, have been buddies for years.
When Price was playing for St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif., just south of the L.A. city line, Tuel was at Clovis West High up in Fresno. They got to know each other at various high-school camps, such as the ones at Nevada and San Diego State.
"It's crazy how Jeff and I have known each other for so long and now we play for Washington and Washington State," Price said. "He's a great dude, a gutty competitor."
They are scheduled compete again on Nov. 23 in Pullman, in Price's second Apple Cup start.
"I'VE STILL GOT SOME WORK TO DO"
Price has also known Barkley since high school. USC's senior overshadowed Washington's redshirt junior inside Southern California's Trinity League, while Barkley was as an all-everything, four-year starter at Mater Dei in Santa Ana.
How did Price fare against Barkley in those high school meetings?
"Oh, we lost," Price said, chuckling.
Those pals - and Manning academy colleagues -- will meet again Oct. 13 when USC comes to CenturyLink Field.
Shaundra Price, the Husky quarterback's mother, will be there. So will Price's grandmother, Gail Manuel. They will again lead the boisterous pack of family fans from the south side of L.A, the unmistakables that came to just about every one of their guy's games last year wearing purple and gold T-shirts with "The Price is RIGHT!" printed on them.
I asked Keith how excited he was for this Huskies season to begin in 5½ weeks, on Sept. 1 against San Diego State.
"Oh, man, I can't wait!" he said. "And my family, they are even more excited than me. They are all fired up."
No wonder they're pumped. For all he did last season, as Price noted Tuesday "Actually, I'm still learning things. I'm not a senior. Last year was only my first year."
And now his Huskies are set to benefit from the tools and tricks Price learned this month from two of the very best quarterbacks of this generation at the Manning Passing Academy.
"Oh, it's definitely an honor (being there). But like I said, I'm not even the top guy," he said.
"I definitely have some work to do."
About Gregg Bell Gregg Bell is an award-winning sports writer who joined the University of Washington's staff in September 2010 as the Director of Writing. Previously, Bell served as the senior national sports writer in Seattle for The Associated Press. The native of Steubenville, Ohio, is a 1993 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He received a master's degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 2000.
Gregg Bell Unleashed can be found on GoHuskies.com each Wednesday.