Andrew Price admits he’s not the same “skinny baby-faced boy” that graduated from Blaine High School in 2012.
“I was looking at a picture from my true freshman year and comparing it to one taken during my second-to-last game at Boise State as a senior, and the size difference was amazing,” said Price, who graduated Cum Laude from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in May 2016 with a degree in Kinesiology. “I was a totally different person. I went from this skinny little kid to being a giant. It was crazy.”
Price is quite literally a self-made man, as hours of sweat spent lifting and training the past five years have created a sculpted 6-foot-7, 260-pound tight end prospect in this weekend’s NFL Draft.
The craziness of how far he’s come is definitely not lost on Price, as he prepares to live out an event he’s been dreaming of since he was in third grade.
“There are a handful of teams that have said they are really interested in seeing where I fit in,” said Price, who, on advice of his agent, would not say which teams have shown the most pre-draft interest in him. “I’m just happy to be in a position where I might get drafted. Even if that doesn’t end up happening, I know I will get my chance to play as a free agent.
It’s pretty crazy when you think about it. I’m going from Blaine, a high school that had 400 kids in the halls, to possibly playing at the highest level.
“It’s pretty crazy when you think about it. I’m going from Blaine, a high school that had 400 kids in the halls, to possibly playing at the highest level. I’m really excited for this opportunity.”
Before looking ahead, let’s take a look back at how Price got to this point – standing on the precipice of one of the biggest weekends in his life.
A Rebel with a cause
Price admits he went to UNLV in the summer of 2012 as a 6-6, 235-pound true freshman expecting to play, but he quickly realized he was “nowhere near where I needed to be at to play at that level.” Fortunately, the Rebels immediately started to groom Price to play, keeping him on the travel squad throughout what ended up being a redshirt season.
“I got to go through the whole week of game prep, and then I’d suit up and stand on the sideline,” Price said. “It was neat going to all those places and experiencing what it was like to play Division I football.”
Price said that experience helped prepare him for his freshman season, when he played in 11 games, started two and made his first three collegiate receptions for 27 yards. His sophomore year didn’t produce much more catch-wise, as the Rebels focused on throwing to their wide receivers and he was more of a run blocker, catching just one pass for 14 yards.
A coaching change his junior year brought a new philosophy and a career-high 17 catches for 173 yards and one touchdown in 2015, ranking him fourth on the team. He ended up surpassing most of those numbers with 16 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns as a senior.
“I love my college football experience,” Price said. “We didn’t have a great record – the only year we got to a bowl game was my redshirt freshman year, when we went to the Heart of Dallas Bowl (in 2014) and lost to North Texas. But I got my chances to play in some iconic college stadiums – I played at Michigan in “The Big House,” on the “Smurf Turf” at Boise State and in the Rose Bowl when we played at UCLA.”
Right around my sophomore or junior year, I started to realize I could play with anybody.
It was in those games against UNLV’s higher profile opponents that Price began to realize that his dream of making it to the next level might be a possibility.
“I started to see what I was capable of,” Price said. “I didn’t see it until I actually did it. Right around my sophomore or junior year, I started to realize I could play with anybody. We played at Michigan, and they had some highly touted guys I went up against. I was able to easily handle them. ... That’s when I knew what I could do.”
Speeding up the process
Price said he prided himself in being one of the strongest players on his team in the weight room – a trait that helped create an absolute bulldog when it came to run blocking at UNLV. But Price and his agent quickly realized that NFL scouts might be seeking a little more speed to show that the prospect was capable of being a bigger part of the passing game.
After returning from his parents’ house in Blaine over the holidays, Price immediately went to work at Philippi Sports Institute in Las Vegas, a workout facility a number of professional athletes from various sports train at, to craft a version of himself that might catch the eye of scouts.
Though he wasn’t asked to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Price was invited to a regional combine in Seattle, an offer he declined, because it was scheduled for early February – just two weeks after he’d begun his combine training. Instead, Price said he decided to wait until UNLV’s pro day March 28 to unveil the metamorphosis he went through and show “the best product I can put forward.”
It was better than I anticipated, and it turned a lot of teams on to me.
The results couldn’t have been much better.
“I was really happy with my numbers,” Price said. “I always take pride in being the strongest guy on the team on the bench and the clean. When I dropped weight from 260 to 248, I fell off a little. I did 21 reps (on the bench), when I would have done 31 or 32 if I’d stayed at 260. I knew it was a sacrifice I needed to make so that I could improve my agility times. I ran a 4.72 (second time in the 40-yard dash) on pro day, so it was worth it. It was better than I anticipated, and it turned a lot of teams on to me.”
Price said he has since worked out for a couple of teams, and Cardswire.com reported that Price visited Arizona Cardinals on March 30.
A phone call away
CBSSports.com doesn’t have Price ranked among the top 25 tight end prospects in the draft at a position that’s considered relatively deep in 2017, and it’s unlikely Price will get a call on Thursday or Friday during the first two days of the draft. Those calls are reserved for first-round prospects O.J. Howard of Alabama, David Njoku from Miami and possibly Evan Engram from Ole Miss and a handful of others in the second and third rounds.
But Saturday during rounds four through seven ...?
“It’s awesome being ranked against guys of that caliber,” Price said. “This is the deepest class of tight ends they’ve had in over a decade, and being one of those guys is a huge honor. I love the fact that I’m getting that kind of recognition and drawing parallels to those kinds of guys.”
The tight end Price likes to compare himself to most is “one of the greatest to ever play the game” – Dallas veteran Jason Witten.
This is the deepest class of tight ends they’ve had in over a decade, and being one of those guys is a huge honor.
“I model my game after him as much as I can,” Price said. “I take pride in run blocking, like he does. (Carolina’s) Greg Olson is another two-way guy that can block and catch. I like to think I can be more explosive, someone like Jimmy Graham going up and snagging one in a crowd of guys when I get the chance.”
Price said he plans to have a “small” draft viewing party with family and friends in Las Vegas.
And if his phone doesn’t ring during the draft? Price said he’s anxious to get an opportunity to try earning a roster spot as an undrafted free agent.
Price said he spoke to a former UNLV teammates that made it to the NFL via that route, such as offensive lineman Brett Boyko and Cameron Jefferson. Jefferson signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Bears in 2015, won a Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos in 2016 and is now on the Buffalo Bills’ roster, while Boyko was signed as a free agent in 2015 by the Philadelphia Eagles and spent most of the 2016 season on the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad.
To have NFL teams even thinking about drafting me or signing me as a free agent – I’m so humbled by that.
“Being drafted doesn’t make or break you,” Price said. “It’s not the end of the road. Both of those guys were undrafted and went on to make it as a free agents. I’m thankful for the opportunity to even have teams think about drafting me. It’s such and honor when you consider I came from a small town like Blaine. Just to get a chance to go in and compete with some of the best athletes in the world, it doesn’t matter how you get there.”
Plus, just in case Price doesn’t get an invitation to an NFL training camp – either as a draft choice or a free agent – or if his dream of playing in the NFL doesn’t pan out for any other reason, the young man who scored a 38 (98th percentile) on the Wonderlic test as a junior and earned the nickname “Brainiac” from NFL scouts that visited Rebels practices has a pretty solid backup plan. Price, who made the dean’s list during all eight semesters of undergraduate work, was a four-time All-Academic Mountain West pick and earlier this month was selected to the 2017 National Football Foundation Hampshire Honor Society, plans to go to med school.
But those plans can wait another 15 years, as far as Price is concerned.
“I had one scout ask me why not just go to med school,” Price said. “I told him I want to play football until I can’t anymore. This is a dream of mine – it has been since I was in third grade. It’s exciting to see that it’s now within reach. To have NFL teams even thinking about drafting me or signing me as a free agent – I’m so humbled by that. When I do get that shot, it will make it all worthwhile – all the hard work the last five years at UNLV and the seven years in Blaine. This is a dream for me.”