Is it too early to start wondering if 2011 Price was a total fluke? — purpleblood, Oct. 7, 2012
Keith Price is obviously in over his head. — johnny u. hi-tops, Oct. 21, 2012
Well at least 2013 will be Price’s last year. — Falcon04, Dec. 22, 2012
When things got really ugly, when the anonymous, online hits flattened her son as hard as the on-the-field hits, Shaundra Price’s gut reaction was to pound back — to grab the keyboard and stick up for her son when it felt like no one else would.
Most Read Stories
Her son, inevitably, would talk her down from the edge of cyber-sanity. Don’t read the comments, Mom. Just stay away from the blogs.
He convinced her it would get better.
It was, in fact, a two-way street of support. When Keith Price struggled in 2012, when the opportunities kept slipping away like a small piece of ice from a large hand, the Washington quarterback would turn to his family, to his mom. She calmed him, no doubt, as much as he calmed her through another 7-6 season.
“It was hard to watch him be hard on himself and be sad,” Shaundra Price says. “When your kids hurt, you hurt. I felt his pain out there.”
After some offseason “soul searching,” as he describes it, Keith Price insists the pain is gone — all of it. And starting Monday, when UW opens fall camp to kick off the fifth season of the Steve Sarkisian era, Price is eager to convince everyone that things will be better for the Huskies in 2013.
“We’re going to fire,” he tells his mom.
Price’s last pass of 2012 was intercepted in the final seconds of the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, ending the Huskies’ comeback bid in a 28-26 loss to Boise State. That left UW with a 7-6 record for a third consecutive season and left the typically easygoing Price humbled and frustrated.
In the minutes after the loss, Price didn’t want to get up from his locker.
A few days later, back home in Compton, Calif., for Christmas, he asked his family not to talk about football.
“I felt terrible,” he said. “Even after the Vegas game, I stayed tucked in my locker. I couldn’t believe what just happened.
“I prepared so hard and worked so hard. Why am I not getting the results that I felt like I rightfully deserved? But I felt like it was in God’s plan and it was just the next step in me being a leader. ‘OK, (in 2011) you produce, but were you really a leader?’ And now, ‘Hey, you’re not producing, let’s see what kind of leader you can be.’ You know what I mean? It was a big step. Definitely some soul-searching. Definitely.”
Price had burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2011, throwing for a school-record 33 touchdowns against 11 interceptions in his first season as the Huskies’ starter. Expectations heightened, but the numbers dropped dramatically last season, when he threw 19 touchdown passes and was intercepted 13 times.
Worse, he threw untimely interceptions late in losses to Washington State and Boise State to close out the season, prompting some to vent their frustrations about him on message boards and blogs.
Playing behind an injury-riddled offensive line that allowed 38 sacks — more than all but 10 teams in the country — Price appeared to be in a constant state of scramble. A “dual-threat” quarterback, Price finished the season with a net of minus-34 yards rushing.
It was, however, a deeper duality that emerged within Price: As a leader, he felt it was his responsibility to take the blame after tough losses — “That’s just me, man,” he said — and yet, when it mattered most, the veteran quarterback was often hesitant to put his faith in those teammates he was supposed to be leading.
He eventually came to that honest realization.
“I didn’t trust the guys around me,” he said. “I didn’t trust the calls. I didn’t trust myself and my preparation.”
In the spring, when there were questions about Price’s job security, the fifth-year senior reestablished himself as the starter and, he said, rebuilt his faith in others.
Price spoke recently about how pleasantly surprised he was with the development of new center Mike Criste in the spring, and he was giddy when talking about some of the freshmen receivers who arrived on campus this summer.
The words, Price knows, are easy to say. The hard part is the work: the weightlifting and the conditioning and the repeated route-running in the dog days of summer. Price said he has seen it during voluntary drills this offseason, and he sees reason to believe in his teammates — and, just as important, for others to believe in him again.
“Guys are working hard — real hard. As hard as I’ve seen,” Price said.
Finally healthy, and having earned his bachelor’s degree in American ethnic studies, the quarterback is back to a full regimen of workouts and weightlifting, particularly with his lower half. He insists the knee injuries that hampered him the past two seasons are not an issue.
“I’m 100 percent. I’m running around, I’m doing all the explosive lifts I haven’t done in two seasons,” he said. “I’m doing everything that the team is doing; I’m not being held out at all. I’m completely healthy.”
Shaundra Price wanted more reassurance recently, so she pointedly asked her son about his past injuries.
“Be truthful,” she recalled asking him, “do you have any pain anywhere? And he said, ‘Mom, I’m telling you, I’m 100 percent.’ And I believe him, because last year he was telling me he couldn’t do some of the things the rest of the team was doing. But now he feels more comfortable that he can use his legs again. Last year, he couldn’t do that.”
In another way, it does feel like 2011 again for Price. When he succeeded Jake Locker two years ago, he sensed the uncertainty among many outside the program. He senses it again now, and knows he has something to prove.
“People have those same kind of questions,” he said. “It’s a little different, but I know how to handle it and I feel like that’s when I’m at my best.
“I believe,” he added, “I’ll be better than I was in 2011.”
Mom is convinced.
Soon enough, the quarterback is confident others will be, too.
|Keith Price, by the numbers|
|Washington’s senior quarterback Keith Price needs just one more touchdown pass to tie Cody Pickett for the school record. Price threw 33 TD passes as a sophomore but slumped last year, with his passer efficiency rating dropping from 161.9 as a sophomore to 122.4 as a junior.|
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @a_jude.