Clued in Bengals fans knew the team was set on taking a center in the first round of the NFL Draft. But the team’s first round pick, Billy Price, actually didn’t think he was going to be hearing from Cincinnati on draft night.
“I was surprised. I wasn’t expecting Cincinnati,” Price said in an exclusive interview with Cincy Jungle. “I was thinking it was going to be Detroit and it ended up being Cincinnati and it’s the best place to be drafted to. I’m happy to be here.”
The Lions actually picked one spot ahead of the Bengals in the first round and went with Frank Ragnow, another center, who many thought was going to end up in Cincinnati.
“I met with the Bengals on a top 30 visit and I had a good feeling when I met with Coach Pollack but you can’t really put any value into the visits because everything is an interview at all times,” Price explained, referencing new offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
Like many recent Bengals draft picks, Price grew up a Steelers fan, but is loving Cincinnati and already bought a home in Kentucky.
“I grew up a Steelers fan and my stepfather was a Steelers fan, but I’ve always been a player fan, not a franchise fan,” Price said. “You just want to see players do well like Jerome Bettis and that crew. It’s all fun and games when you’re young and your family is all rooting for the same team.”
It’s safe to say his family will now be rooting for the Bengals.
“I love it in Cincinnati,” Price said. “I don’t love traffic though; traffic is a little ridiculous at times, but other than that it’s great.”
Price joins the Bengals after winning the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top college center in 2017, his first season playing the position after playing both guard spots in prior years for Ohio State. He was also a two-time team captain for the Buckeyes and set a school record with 54 consecutive starts.
His injury-free college streak came crashing down at the NFL Scouting Combine when he performed the bench press in front of a crowd of scouts and fans and partially tore his pectoral muscle. It hurt his draft stock and once he was in the league, caused him to be limited during OTAs and minicamp. Now, he’s medically cleared and ready to go for training camp in Cincinnati.
“I’m fully cleared and we’re good to go, 100 percent,” Price said. “I’m getting my strength back to full capacity. I’ve been working out, watching film and continuing to develop the mental side of football right now. Continuing to get healthy and staying out of trouble.”
If you’ve never seen Price on-the-field, he describes his style of play as “violent and aggressive, but methodical. Making sure I know my job and making sure I do my job to the best of my ability, but also kicking that huge butt across the field from me.”
In addition to having experience at guard, Price also was a defensive lineman in high school and was recruited to play defensive tackle at OSU before switching over to the offensive line.
“The physicality and violence you’re supposed to play with, it helps having that defensive background,” Price said of how playing defensive tackle helps him at the center position. “Offensive linemen often don’t play as violently as they could and that’s something the defensive side helps you with.”
Similarly, having played guard before moving to center in 2017 also has its benefits. “You learn the offense that way. It helps you become more comfortable with the offense as a whole.”
Since arriving in Cincinnati, Price’s leadership and poise have been evident. He wasn’t fully cleared for spring workouts, but he pushed himself to do everything he could, stayed on top of his rehab and started establishing himself as a key fixture in the locker room and a leader among the rookies.
“Being a leader means doing the things people don’t necessarily want to do and making sure you’re on at all times and representing the unit, the team, staying out of trouble and you’re a man of your word,” Price said of what it means to be a leader. “As I get into the season, I want to make sure I’m one of the most prepared people on the field. That’s what I have to do.”
In his rookie year, the expectation is Price will take over as the Bengals’ starting center following the departure of Russell Bodine in free agency. Bodine had been a four-year starter for the Bengals, beginning in his rookie year, but he was never anything better than average. The hope is Price will start out as an above-average center, entering the league as a first round pick and former top college lineman. From there, he will only get better.
“For me, the biggest thing this season is staying healthy, playing all the games and doing what I’m supposed to do for the team, which is to go in and earn a starting job by competing,” Price said of his rookie year goals.
Those sound like pretty great goals from a guy determined to succeed in Cincinnati.
Update: Right before this was posted, Price got engaged!