Many people claim to be a team or athlete's No. 1 fan, but for UW quarterback Keith Price, his No. 1 fan is easily identified and close to home.
Price, who has been making a name for himself in his first year at starting quarterback for UW, has found his biggest fan in the form of his grandmother.
Known to him as “Memaw,” Gail Manuel has watched Price—or as she calls him, “Poo”—grow from a young football fanatic to an impressive collegiate student-athlete.
“I have been following this boy all his life,” she said. “He was in love with football.”
So much so, that separating him from his childhood football was impossible.
“We tried to take that football away,” said Manuel. “But wherever Keith went that football went with him.”
Even as a young child, Price had a great affinity for the sport.
Playing Pop Warner football, Price was placed at quarterback and he hasn’t looked back since.
“I've played quarterback since I was seven,” he said. “I played a little bit of other positions, but my primary position was always quarterback.”
Now in college, Price has been racking up numbers and turning heads in not only the Pac-12 Conference, but the nation.
Described as “the most underrated player in college football" by ESPN’s KC Joyner, Price is tied for second in the nation with 21 touchdown passes and has the fifth-highest passer rating in the nation.
His impressive showing doesn’t end there.
Fans are delighted with Price’s comfort both in and out of the pocket, sometimes scrambling for over five seconds to make a play—a talent he had to learn the hard way in high school.
“He didn’t really have very good blockers,” said Manuel. “When he would get sacked or something I would be up in the stands shouting, ‘Protect my baby!’”
Manuel wasn’t always stationary though.
“I was running up and down the bleachers,” recalled Manuel. “When he was running, I was running right along the side. ‘Go baby go!’ and when he got to college I said ‘Okay, you’re gonna have to bring it down, you’re gonna have to tone it down some.'"
Luckily for Manuel, she isn’t the only one going crazy in the stands. Fans, too, have been cheering wildly for the young quarterback.
Price has done all this in the shadow of former Husky Jake Locker, who was selected No. 8 overall by the Tennessee Titans in the 2011 NFL Draft.
“I don’t think about it at all to be honest with you,” Price said when asked about playing in Locker’s wake. “When someone great like that leaves there’s always going to be question marks.“
But to his Memaw, there is no greater player than Price on the field.
“I’m proud of Keith for being the person that he is,” she said. “He’s always treating people with respect. Even though he was raised that way doesn’t mean he would have continued in that trait. He’s a very caring person.”
Looking at Price, one can see that, as plain as the smile that seems glued to his face. His pearly whites even have fans wearing “Teeth Price” shirts to games.
“I’m the same person on the field just smiling and having fun,” he said. “I just like to make sure that my team is loose.”
Sometimes fans question whether Price is just putting on a cheerful outer appearance with all his smiling, but Manuel knows better.
“What you see is what he’s always been,” she said. “That’s him. That’s Keith.”
With such a positive outlook and so much support, Price has no reason to frown—except maybe when homework is involved.
An American Ethnic studies major, Price has had to find that ideal balance between his passion and his work.
“It's definitely hard,” he admitted. “But it's what we signed up for.”
Price, a native of Compton, California, has had to adjust to being so far from home. But despite the distance, Price couldn’t be happier with his choice.
“He enjoys what he’s doing,” Manuel said. “That’s what makes me happy. He’s enjoying what he does.”
Price has grown out of the JC Penney catalogue jerseys his Memaw bought him as a child into the official purple and gold jersey of the University of Washington Huskies.
But there is one thing he will never outgrow—the love of his dedicated supporter.
“I’m his biggest fan,” said Manuel. “He knows that I’m always behind him.”
Maiah Hollander is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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