CARSON, Calif. – Former Washington quarterback Keith Price remembers receiving a phone call the summer before his junior season. It was from Russell Wilson.
Wilson, who had been selected by the Seahawks in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, was looking for someone in the local Seattle area to throw with before rookie minicamp began.
Naturally, the two linked up and let it rip. Since then, the two quarterbacks have remained tight as Wilson has even mentored Price during the NFL Draft process. In fact the two quarterbacks’ situations draw some similarities. Each player had a bevy of experience in big-time college programs, but both were overlooked for a myriad of reasons.
“We were throwing with some of his receivers like Golden Tate and some of my guys,” Price told FOXSports.com. “We ended up building a bond and it ended up taking off after that. He had the same self-motivated thing as me.”
Price admits it was a blow to learn he wouldn’t be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He never let it deter him, though. He spent two hours a day strength training at EXOS, a training facility in Southern California.
Then, he makes the quick drive down Interstate 405 to Long Beach City College to keep his throwing mechanics razor sharp with quarterback coach Steve Calhoun.
Calhoun, who has worked with Price since he was a freshman in high school at St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.), has also worked with other notable quarterbacks such as EJ Manuel, Mike Glennon and Nick Foles. The quarterbacks coach is convinced Price is being egregiously overlooked.
“I put him among the top group of quarterbacks in this year’s class,” Calhoun said. “There’s not really one guy who has separated himself. From Johnny [Manziel] to Blake Bortles to Derek Carr, I would put Keith in that mix because if you put him in certain situations, I know he can compete with any of those guys.
“The fact that he has been slighted by not being invited to the combine and not being invited to the Senior Bowl, with the amount of production that he had, is troubling. He has taken his workouts to the next level. He has a chip on his shoulder. His focus and intensity is at a level I have never seen him at.”
Just like Wilson, Price won’t allow adversity to discourage him.
“Combine invite or not, I’m self-motivated,” Price said. “I don’t need that to motivate me, but it has. It definitely added more fuel to the fire.”
While several players going through the same process are caught up in where they’ll be selected during the draft, Price is focused on seizing the opportunity when it presents itself. He spends his time away from football with his family and is staying with his grandma, where he lived during his high school years.
“I’m not worried about where or when I’ll be drafted,” Price said. “I’m really not expecting anything because I’m not projected to go anywhere. I’m going to watch the draft with my family. I’ll probably get some workouts in to relieve myself.”
That long-term vision is what makes Price different. Ever since he stepped on campus, he had been planning for the future.
During his freshman season, he saw what it took to be successful. Playing behind Jake Locker, who the Titans would select in the first round in 2011, Price learned how much time he needed to invest to be successful at the position.
“I saw first-hand how to be a high-level quarterback in the Pac-12,” Price said. “He worked extremely hard. I learned how to prepare and how to take mental reps when I was behind him. That was the most valuable thing.”
When it was Price’s turn to operate the offense, he hit the ground running. While Washington won seven games, Price completed 67 percent of his passes for over 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns. His junior season, he was humbled playing with a green receiving corps and a poor offensive line.
“I tried to shoulder everything and live up to certain expectations,” Price recalled. “I put more pressure on myself than I needed to. I tried to be the hero all the time and I forced throws. I tried to be a gunslinger instead of throwing the ball away. I committed way too many turnovers and oftentimes cost my team the game.”
Entering his senior season, the 6-foot-1, 202-pound quarterback made it a point of emphasis to cut down on turnovers. He became a much more efficient passer by cutting down on more than half of his interceptions (13 to six) from the previous year and drastically reduced his amount of fumbles.
“It doesn’t take talent to take care of the ball,” Price said. “During the offseason, I would have guys swiping at the ball at all times and it’s muscle memory. That way when I do take a sack, my instant reaction is to protect the ball. I told myself regardless it’s not going to be because of my turnovers on why we lose games. I made it muscle memory. It has prepared me for the next level.”
The challenging times certainly prepared him for the next level, too.
“Struggles in college help you, Price said. “In the NFL it’s so hard to get a win, you just never know. Dealing with those struggles early prepares you for the next level because everything is more magnified. I’ve learned a lot about myself.”
Earlier this month the Seahawks quarterback sent Price a text message that has stuck with him: “They’re sleeping on you. Wake them up,” Wilson wrote.
If Price has anything to say about it, he’ll make sure the talent evaluators won’t be snoozing on him for long.