Billy Price is pointing his way to Cincinnati.
When Ohio State center Billy Price tore his left pectoral muscle on his third bench press rep at the NFL Scouting Combine he immediately feared that his shot at being a first round draft pick was finished.
"I told my roommate that I had 12 guaranteed chances this past season to present the best film and show that I'm the most dominant center in college football and to do everything that I wanted to do," said Price. "Then the injury happened and all of the sudden you're thinking, 'Oh shoot, I'm done.' I went from projected first round all the way down to third, fourth, fifth, sixth, whatever.
"It was sickening to be honest with you."
But the following day an MRI revealed that it was only a partial tear that could easily be surgically repaired.
The Bengals expect the 22-year-old to be ready for the start of training camp and selected him with the 21st overall pick.
In the previous 20 NFL drafts, 11 centers have been selected in the first round and eight of them have gone to the Pro Bowl.
"It's an unbelievable feeling right now," said Price. "I'm oozing with emotions right now because this is exactly what I wanted in this draft: To be able to go as high as possible and to stay home. To stay in Ohio, to stay in the Midwest, and to bring the brand of Ohio State football down to Cincinnati."
After Russell Bodine signed as a free agent with Buffalo, there is nobody on the Bengals' roster that has started at center in an NFL game. Fifth-year veteran T.J. Johnson is currently number one on the depth chart, but Price expects to compete for the starting spot immediately.
"My goal is to finish up my career at Ohio State and then transition to the NFL and set this league on fire from day one," he said. "For me it's that expectation to earn a starting job, to compete from day one, and to be that plug-and-play player at center, guard, or wherever the team wants. At Cincinnati there is going to be a great opportunity."
Price was a two-time All-American for the Buckeyes and won the Rimington Trophy last year as the nation's outstanding center. The two-time Ohio State captain grew up in Austintown, Ohio, just outside of Youngstown, and says his skill set reflects his upbringing.
"I like my tenacity and physicality," said Price. "That's something that I really pride myself on. If you're playing football in the Midwest, you've got to make sure that you're physical, make sure that you're tough, and make sure that you're imposing your will on those guys and I feel that I do a pretty good job of that when I play."
The Bengals brought Price to Cincinnati for a pre-draft visit where he was quizzed by new offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
"He's intense," said Price. "He's a coach with high expectations and very intelligent. He threw a lot at me and the expectation was for me to regurgitate it. For me to be able to sit there in a room and spit back what he was saying because you have to be intelligent and you have to be quick on your feet. Especially playing offensive line and especially playing center."
Price set a school record with 55 starts at Ohio State, spending his first three seasons at guard before moving to center when Pat Elflein was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings. Oddly enough, Billy was known for his weight room prowess at OSU only to get injured while doing the bench press at the combine.
"I wasn't trying to set a record, I was just trying to perform," he said. "It was a situation where I might have been going a little too fast and could have been warmed up more. There were a couple of different variables. It was just something that popped. It was a freak accident but we're about two months away from being completely cleared and 100 percent going into training camp."
The combine injury did not hurt his draft position and Price is excited to be headed to Cincinnati.
"It's a five hour drive from Youngstown, Ohio," he said. "It's ideal, it's unbelievable, and it's a huge, huge opportunity. I can't be more thankful."
Cincinnati Bengals draft center Billy Price from Ohio State with 21st pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.