The 2009 UCLA Bruins’ football season provided a plethora of highlights for fans and alumni, but no Bruin shone brighter last year than All-American defensive tackle Brian Price.
After registering a team-leading seven sacks to go along with an astounding 23.5 tackles-for-loss last season, Price has decided to skip his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
The native Angeleno hails from humble beginnings in South Central Los Angeles, and is one of the country's more talented defensive tackles who is renowned for his explosive first step, his ability to penetrate the backfield, as well as his versatility. Although Price turns 21 on April 10, he is projected to be selected as high as the mid-to-late first round.
For a kid who grew up in the inner city, Price is about to witness a tremendous life change. His positive attitude, gifted ability, and great health make him among the best defensive tackles available along with Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy.
A month from now, Price’s agent Chuck Price (no relation), could be discussing a multi-million dollar contract on Brian’s behalf. I wanted to sit and chat with Brian before he leaves the familiarity of Westwood to join the professional ranks:
B/R: Who were your primary role models growing up, or people you looked up to, and why?
Price: I look up to my parents because they’re great role models, great people, great individuals. They’ve been through a lot, and I look up to them because they overcame a lot, I also look up to my sisters, although [joking] they can get on my nerves sometimes. (chuckles)
But seriously, I also look up to Warren Sapp, Reggie White, I also liked watching Michael Strahan play. Those guys are great individuals as well. They’ve all been through stuff and they overcame things, and to see what they’re going through that they overcame.
B/R: Have you had a chance to meet any of these guys?
Price: I met Warren Sapp once. He’s a great guy. He taught me a lot about the NFL, and he’s just been a great role model and a good person to talk to.
B/R: You mentioned Sapp. Could you see yourself emulating his career? Who do you envision yourself emulating?
Price: A lot of people say I remind them of Warren Sapp. I mean, if I could emulate his path, that’d be great, he’s a Hall-of-Fame guy. But I’d like to take a piece of Reggie White, Michael Strahan, and Warren Sapp and just put it all together. If I could be like that, that’d be great.
But I can’t control a lot of that [comparisons], but what I can control is going out and play football, and that’s all I can do. I enjoy playing, and I have fun playing the game.
B/R: Your fans do get the sense that you enjoy playing when you’re stuffing running backs and tackling quarterbacks in the backfield. But what is a NFL team getting in drafting Brian Price—both on and off the field?
Price: A versatile player. I mean, I can play any position on the line. You ask me to play wide receiver and I’ll line up! Because I love playing the game. I’m not gonna give any problems or nothing. What I’m here for…is I just want to play football.
(I laughed at the notion of Price lining up against a cornerback) B/R: I’d love to see that! What was your favorite memory as a Bruin?
Price: Going down to Tennessee this past season and beating them. 103,000 fans, I mean it was packed down there! They came out, and they were all cocky and stuff, and they thought they were going to beat us.
We won the game, and it was a great feeling knowing that UCLA is getting back on the right track, and that’s why I felt comfortable knowing that it’s going to be a great program.
B/R: That’s funny, as I was about to ask you what do you think of the future of the Bruin football program under Rick Neuheisel?
Price: Well, the sky’s the limit. I mean, they have a lot of young talent from a good recruiting class in the last couple years, and gotta start putting it all together on defense. We got Akeem Ayers coming back, and he’s a playmaker…as well as my boy from San Diego, Nate Chandler.
B/R: What are some of your concerns as you make the step to the next level?
Price: I’m not really concerned. I’m just trying to be stress free going going into [the draft]. My biggest thing is having fun and working hard. If a team’s going to hire me to play football, and that’s what I’m good at, then let’s give them what they want.
I mean, my thing is just having fun, and taking care of myself and my family. I don’t want to be all stressed out going into anything, I just wanna be stress free, living my life and having fun.
B/R: Your family must have played a pretty significant role in your decision to come out versus staying for your senior year. Take me through conversations that transpired.
Price: Well, my mom, she doesn’t really know too much about football. She doesn’t know where I am on the field, like what I’m doing sometimes. But my dad, I talked to him, I told him what I wanted to do, and he was behind me 100 percent. My mom and my sisters were behind me 100 percent.
I got all the information I needed from my coaches. At the end of the day, the decision was all on me, and I decided to leave. I always had a dream to play in the NFL and to leave college early. I mean, even in high school, I was like, “I wanna be three-and-out,” but just never told nobody, just kept that inside. That’s what I wanted to do.
B/R: Well, UCLA isn’t going anywhere, and you can certainly return to finish up your coursework, get your degree, and make your family happy. But if you get drafted in the first couple rounds, you’re still going to make your family happy.
Price: Yeah, I came here to have a good season. And every year, I’ve gotten better here. I just felt like it was time for me to go, so it was time for me to make my decision.
B/R: And I’m sure UCLA will miss you. Is there anything you’d like to say to your Bruin faithful before you make the step to the pros?
Price: Thank you for putting up with me for three years. Thank you for letting me come and be a part of the Bruin family. I’ll forever be a part of the Bruin family. I love wearing blue and gold. I love the campus, I love the environment. And I love our fans, first and foremost. I mean, I’ve just had fun my three years here, just meeting new people, just running in to certain celebrities up here on campus.
B/R: How do you think playing at UCLA, and Pac-10 football has prepared you for playing in the NFL?
Price: Well, the Pac-10 was pretty tough last season, very competitive. We just don’t run the football, we just don’t pass the ball. [The Pac-10] gets you ready for both parts of the game at the next level.
B/R: You mean how the Pac-10, as opposed to, say, the Big 12, doesn’t have as many spread offenses running throughout the conference, so there’s a lot more attention on the defensive tackles?
Price: Yeah, I always talk to my agent about that stuff, and he always breaks it down, like Pac-10 defensive tackles are doing well in the NFL. In the Big 12, he was telling me how they read a lot, how the quarterback reads the D-line and the D-line will read the quarterback, so there’s a lot of standing around.
In the Pac-10, we just gotta get upfield, make plays, and that’s my job. I got upfield and made plays. It was hard…it took a lot of studying, because you never know, you could get a run or pass on any play. The average was 50/50, so it gets you ready for the next level.
B/R: As far as your journey from growing up in South Central Los Angeles to making it over here in Westwood, what valuable experiences do you carry with you that you think will make you a better NFL player?
Price: My life motto is “Everything happens for a reason.” Just living life, a lot of stuff happens to you, and you go through a lot as an individual. And it’s just a test. Are you going to overcome it, or are you gonna stay there and just let it defeat you?
Coming from South Central LA, yeah, it made me a tough individual. I can handle pretty much anything if God is on my side. So if God is working with me or against me, I just take everything, even what I’m going through right now, I keep a smile on my face.
I don’t like being down, I hate being stressed out. I just hate being sad, so I keep a smile on my face knowing that there’s a brighter day ahead.
B/R: Yeah, I noticed that a lot of your teammates feed off your energy.
Price: Well, you’ll know that I’m not the type to just go down with a sunken ship. I’m out to change things, I’m out to put a smile on everybody’s face. I want everyone to be happy, I don’t like seeing people sad and stuff like that.
Coming from Crenshaw [High School] made me even tougher. Playing football there, going through all the hell weeks, practice was hard, but it made us tough young men. It made us who we are today. A lot of my teammates went on to college.
Even if they didn’t go play football in college, they made it because they’re competitive. They came from Crenshaw to compete.
Price’s inspired outlook is reflected in his personality. After meeting him, I would say that he comes off as determined and self-assured, yet humbled by life’s circumstances. He has a lot of pride in his alma mater, and his tumultuous childhood at least contributes to what makes him the pillar of strength he has become.
In spite of losing two older brothers to gun violence in separate incidents five years apart, Brian keeps a level head and maintains focus on the big picture of his as well as his family’s future.
I could tell Price was prepped, and knew the right things to say during our interview. Regardless, I was pleased with the amount of personality he displayed, and how frank he was about his objectives. Even though Brian will face many challenges at the professional level, he is not afraid of what lies ahead given the curveballs life has thrown him thus far.
He’s shown the ability to persevere through tough times by using tragedies from his past coupled with a positive outlook on the future as a motivation tool, but we’ll have to wait until summer to see how his motivation measures up against mammoth offensive linemen, the NFL minicamps, and the spotlight of the professional ranks.
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