Initial comments ...
“I want to take the time to introduce you to Billy Price. Bill has been here since around lunchtime, and he has had a busy afternoon. He will have a chance to do some things in the morning before heading home. We’re excited to have him here. I’m sure it’s been a whirlwind few hours since last evening.”
What did you see in Billy Price as a prospect, man and football player for your organization?
“All of our exposure to Billy, whether it be in Indianapolis or in Columbus — I went over early one morning (in Columbus) to watch practice and saw him — we had many chances to interact with him, including when we brought him to Cincinnati. I’ve been careful not to like him too much, obviously because he was going into the draft, where the cards have to fall your way. He is a player and person who we felt could be productive. As I said last night, he could become a pillar of our football team. He plays a position where he has to have some leadership ability. That’s really important in order to play his position. He demonstrated all of those things to us through this entire process. We were excited to be able to pick him last night. Moving forward, he will have the opportunity to grow. He’s only been a fulltime center for one year, so he has a lot ahead of him to develop. He will fit well into what we envision our offensive front to look like.”
Guard, Ohio State
Is there going to be a movement to have everyone on the offensive line shave their heads?
“The stress from college can get to you a bit, so the hair had to go.”
After watching you on tape, you seem to have a technique for everything. Was that self-taught or does your line coach from Ohio State deserve credit?
“Both. I had two excellent offensive line coaches at Ohio State — Ed Warner my first three years and Greg Studrawa my last two years. There’s a lot of things you learn to do through independent study and you watch different offensive lines. We did a lot of film work watching Dallas and Pittsburgh. You’d see some of these great offensive linemen doing certain techniques — you are able to translate that into your game. I was able to pick up on some of those things and then coach Studrawa was able to teach me different techniques and ways to play offensive line. It was a mixture of both.”
From what you and Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack have been able to talk about, do you get a sense that there are similarities here from Ohio State in terms of what you are going to be doing?
“We haven’t gotten too much into it. We will be having a meeting tomorrow. There will be a transition period. The NFL offenses are a lot more diverse than what I did in college at Ohio State. It will be an adjustment, but I am open to the challenge.”
Are there any terminologies you have to unlearn and relearn?
“When I was here before, we did a little bit of offensive installation, so there is some unlearning (to do). There are some similar, universal languages that offensive lines use, so we will be translating that to what we do here in Cincinnati.”
How different is your personality as a football player as opposed to the guy sitting here now?
“You have to be able to turn that switch on and off. You have to be a high character guy who is approachable and not that guy who people can’t talk to. Especially if you are going to be an offensive lineman who will be the face of a program. You have to be someone with high character and high morals. Then, once you get on that field, you have to flip that switch and have no problem tearing someone’s face off. Coming into Ohio State and as I go forward now, that’s the mentality — to bring the physical play, be smart and be prepared for anything a defense will throw at me.”
Is it a fair assessment to say you and OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett ran the show on offense up at Ohio State?
“It was a collective effort. You must have good communication, such as (figuring out) who is taking care of the receivers on the outside. Jamarco Jones, my left tackle, and myself made sure everything was correct upfront.”
Having grown up and having been born and raised in Ohio, what does Ohio pride mean to you?
“For me, you are playing in your backyard. You are playing at home. It’s an excellent opportunity because you represent the state of Ohio. Being raised in Ohio athletics, playing at Ohio State in college, and now being able to play for the Bengals — for me, it’s a dream come true. Playing in the Midwest, being raised in the Midwest, and now continuing my career in the Midwest, there’s nothing more I could ask for.”
Do you feel that playing for Ohio State, a school with a large venue with crowds in a major conference with big-time opponents has prepared you for the NFL?
“I think so. There are tough environments no matter where you play. I’ve played in the toughest environments in college, but I know there will be a transition and adjustment to it. There are completely different offenses, so you need to make sure you are moving on the fly. NFL defenses are very complex with a lot of different packages that players can (execute). You have to be able to block out the noise and focus on the job.”
What is the most consistent piece of advice that people have given you regarding playing at the next level?
“Take care of your body. A buddy of mine, Pat Elflein, who plays for the Minnesota Vikings, told me the same thing — to take care of your body. You are going to go through 17 weeks, four preseason games and then potentially playoffs. You are looking at possibly over 20 games. As a rookie, you have to make sure that your body, and your mind, is being taken care of. In college, I was guaranteed 12 games, compared to 16 plus all of those other games. You have to make sure your body and mind are fresh every weekend.”
Did you ever think about coming out of college early before you started playing the center position?
“There was a little bit of thought about coming out early. I knew that if I played center, I would have more versatility and would add value to any NFL franchise going into next year. For me, it was a better decision to come back.”
It has worked out for you, hasn’t it?
“Not too bad.”
Right before your last home game, you wrote an open letter to fans, teammates and coaches. Why did you do that? Was there one element in the letter that you were trying to get across?
“I paired up with a writer with the (Big 10 football website) Land of 10, Jeremy Birmingham, who I did a lot of pieces with. He approached me with the idea to give back and give insight into what it’s like to play football at the greatest university, Ohio State. For me, you reflect on that letter, the memories and experiences. Toward the end, you give it as a memento for guys coming in, so they don’t just play football — they impact the community, take care of their grades and make sure they are completely well-rounded, more than (just) a football player. It gave insight into my five years and many months and days at Ohio State.”
What kind of reaction did you get from that?
“I had a lot of people tell me it was a beautiful letter that (reached) them emotionally. Again, it was insight into my experiences.”
Where did the ability to talk about character and off-the-field issues come from? Certainly it may have been parents or high school coaches. Was there anyone specific who pointed you in that direction?
“My grandfather was a huge influence for me, particularly as I was growing up. My parents were divorced, and so my grandfather was a significant male role model in my life. He taught me how to be a man through all of his experiences. He was always a person who believed that you win with people, and you win by treating people right. You have to have that human element and make sure people trust you. You have to make sure you treat people with respect and are personally well-rounded. That will bring out the best in people.”
Was there anyone specific who you admired at Ohio State and hoped to be more like in terms of leadership?
“For me, it was a collective group. My freshman year, guys like Corey Linsley and Andrew Norwell were guys I got to study under. Seeing how those guys interacted and went through a room with 20-something guys. Being able to reach and craft everyone was a major influence on me.”
You started at Ohio State as a defensive lineman before moving to offensive. Was that process difficult?
“It was a tough conversation with coach Urban Meyer. I knew that I didn’t have a future playing defensive line. I wasn’t in a good place mentally and emotionally. I made that change, and coach Meyer was open to it. I went from one tough room with Mike Vrabel to another tough room with Ed Warinner. They had the expectations for you to be the best player you can be. It brought me to where I am today.”
You played with a quality group of offensive linemen at Ohio State. What were some of the qualities that separate Ohio State offensive linemen from others?
“The first thing is toughness and making sure you outlast your opponent in any scenario possible. It really establishes Ohio State offensive linemen from others. The way we play physical and aggressive, without being out of control. We take a lot of pride in the way we execute.”
Have you had any contact with former offensive linemen you played with?
“Taylor Decker texted me last night, and so did Pat Elflein, to congratulate me and to make sure I am well aware of the expectations going forward.”
Do you think any of those Ohio State/Michigan feelings will come out when you face Bengals DT Ryan Glasgow?
“The rivalry is still part of it. He went to the ‘team up north’ and I went to Ohio State. We will leave it at that.”
What do you remember about those battles?
“I remember playing him specifically. The last week in November, we will have a little bet. It can’t (involve) shaving my head, since I already did that.”
What are your impressions of Bengals HB Joe Mixon as a player?
“He’s someone I’m excited to block for. I’ve played with some pretty exciting running backs, like obviously playing with Ezekiel Elliott, and actually playing against Mixon when I played against Oklahoma. He’s somebody who’s very explosive and can take a play 90 yards and have no problem with it. I haven’t watched a ton of film on him, but seeing things I have over the years, I’m excited to block for him.”
Is there added excitement for you to step into a building where a lot of guys have been on playoff teams, and where there’s an expectation to get back to that point?
“Oh, it’s exciting. That’s my expectation as well. You get with the vets, earn that respect, and make sure that with my expectations we’re continuing to push the level, push the bar, get back in the playoff race, and make sure we’re contending every single year. That starts with the offensive line up front, and making sure we get our jobs done and execute things soundly, and then let the other guys take care of everything else.”
How do you earn the respect of the veterans?
“For me, it’s ‘Shut your mouth and go to work.’ I’m not a ‘rah rah,’ big and flashy kind of guy. I need to make sure my job is taken care of. Playing offensive line, if your name isn’t called, that’s probably a good thing.”
Expectations are that you could be a Game 1 starter. Are those your expectations?
“For me to work to compete to be a Day 1 starter, absolutely. There’s nothing given at all in this league. There was nothing given to get to this part in my journey, and there’s a lot more to continue to (do).”
On lots of occasions, you’ve been the guy out in front of the media in the middle of a difficult situation, whether that was after an upset loss to Penn State or after your injury at the combine. What do you think that says about your character, and do you like being that sort of spokesman?
“For me, it was, ‘Don’t run from adversity.’ Again, it’s something I’ve always been a part of. It’s a logical black-and-white world. If you lost and you didn’t execute, and I have no problem owning up and saying, ‘Hey, I could have done this better.’ For me, I think it’s attractive for teams because I’m not going to ‘BS’ somebody. I’m going to keep it very honest and be up front with somebody and say, ‘If I didn’t get my job done, I didn’t get it done, and I need to get better.’ I told Jerry Emig, who was our media guy at Ohio State, that I’ll talk (in those situations). I have no problem with it. Everybody wants to crucify our quarterback or crucify an offensive coordinator, and I have no problem saying, ‘Hey, I’ll address the questions, and you don’t have to worry about it.’”
What was the first thought that ran through your mind when you sustained the pectoral injury at the combine?
“I’ve never been injured before, so every thought in the book went went through my mind. I was scared (laughs), I can tell you that. Your body is a machine, and for me, I’ve run 100 percent no problem for five years straight. And then all of a sudden, boom, your arm goes. For me, you’ve got to retrain your mind to say, ‘Now, let’s get healthy.’ Let’s not worry about the draft picks — don’t worry about the draft — get healthy, bounce back as quick as possible, and regain full range of motion and full strength.”
So you’re on-schedule with your recovery?
“Way ahead of schedule. I went to see Dr. (David) Altchek up in New York, he was moving my arm and saying, ‘Wow, you got that back fast.’ So I was like, ‘Hey, I like hearing that.’”
You said you had never been injured at Ohio State. Had you ever dealt with an injury before Ohio State?
“Nothing. I had a concussion my sophomore year in high school. That’s it.”
Are you a patient guy by nature, or is this a difficult process to not be able to do what you want to do in terms of working out and practicing?
“Yeah. But I’ve been doing my rehab back at Ohio State, and I’ve got excellent, excellent trainers there keeping me on-schedule. Your body is a machine that’s making you work. If I go and mess something up, then I’m way behind schedule, and it hurts the team. So I’m making sure that I stay on my track and that we’re good.”