A three-sport athlete at Eastern High School in Greentown, Ind., the nickname was earned on the basketball court. While he now has earned his keep as a football player in East Lansing, he still hears the name back home – especially from his 11-year-old brother, Barak.
“He is kind of like Superman, except he can’t fly,” Barak said.
Barak and Josiah have almost exactly 10 years between them, but the pair are more than just brothers.
They are best friends and each other’s inspiration.
Dynamic and unbelievable
The youngest of Tim and Mary Price’s four sons, Barak was born with moderate to severe hearing loss, communication and speech issues and moderate cerebral palsy, a disorder that impacts his motor skills.
None of that has taken any luster from his personality, as Tim consistently describes Barak as unbelievable, noting his ability to light up a room with vibrancy.
”He is just like any other kid,” Tim said. “While he has some special needs, he is a perfectly normal guy and he has a dynamic, unbelievable personality.”
The impact he has had on those around him has been undeniable, especially on his brothers.
“When a sibling is around that, it’s inspiring,” Tim said. “Barak, everything is a little bit harder for him, so he works really hard and always has a good attitude and never gives up.
”There is a certain amount of inspiration and encouragement being around him.”
The Price’s oldest sons both have worked with youth, as Micah, 25, works with other people who have special needs and Tim Jr., 23, has worked with troubled youth.
When it comes to Josiah and Barak, the inspiration and encouragement runs deeply. As Micah and Tim Jr. left for college, it was just the pair left at home and their bond grew stronger.
Through his junior and senior years of high school, Josiah drove Barak to school everyday, carrying him across the parking lot, dropping him off at the door with a hug.
”We are a school of 100 people per class, so when Josiah, a three-sport athlete, brings his little brother to school and shows love and affection to him, it’s pretty special,” Tim said. ”It’s been a great thing for Barak, but that’s been used to soften Josiah’s heart toward kids that are like Barak and aren’t perfect.”
Being far apart in age removed a sense of competitiveness between them, but they teased each other, played sports and video games together and became best friends.
”He always has a smile on his face and always wants to play football, wants to play basketball,” Josiah said. “Whenever I’m around him, I can’t help but smile.”
”The happiest little kid in the world”
Since Josiah left for Michigan State two years ago, the time he and Barak spend together has naturally been lessened.
A busy football schedule keeps him in East Lansing more often than not, but Barak is around for Michigan State games plenty and has made him recognizable. From seeing highlights on TV and yelling out players’ names to his green and white hearing aids, Barak is all about the Spartans.
”He really loves the guys,” Josiah said. “If you ask every player on this team, everyone on this team knows Barak is my little brother just because he is the happiest little kid in the world.”
Sometimes, those trips to games entail getting more time to spend with Josiah. While the plan might be for just the two of them to spend time together, it often leads to spending time with other members of the Michigan State football team.
”I’ll be like, ‘Hey, it’s going to be brothers’ night hanging out in the apartment,’ and he is like, ‘Hey, can we go hang out with other football players?’” Josiah said. “I understand it from his perspective that he is an 11-year-old kid who sees all these guys play on national TV and he loves it.
”For me, the biggest joy in that is just getting to hang out with him because I cherish every moment I have with him and just to see how happy he is.”
Jim Bollman, Josiah’s position coach at Michigan State, has seen the relationship between the two, saying it has been special to witness.
”It’s neat all the guys that are around him, Josiah will bring him out and he has been over in the dorms in the past,” he said.
He said the kindness displayed from Josiah to Barak is a reflection of who Josiah really is as a person of conviction and a fun person to be around.
”He treats everybody really well, first class, good leader,” Bollman said. “He is really a help to his teammates.
”He encourages people a lot.”
On the gridiron
Last year, Josiah made his impact at Michigan State as a redshirt freshman. He had four touchdowns, including a big late score against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Back in Greentown, Barak was playing his first season of football. He did not get to wear No. 82, but instead had No. 80 and tried to play tight end – just like his brother.
”He was pumped because then he was (former Spartan) Dion Sims,” Josiah said. “Football was pretty tough for him last year just with all the different muscle things, but he loves that his best friends are on the team. …
”He fits in really well and he loves the game.”
Barak will not be playing again this year, a tough decision his parents had to make. Weighing the potential injury against the benefits, Tim said the decision had to be made and instead, Barak will be on the sideline as a manager this season.
“He wants to play, but it’s one of those things that I couldn’t live with myself if he got hurt,” Tim said. “All those guys are his friends that play and I’m trying to do it where he has dignity and is still friends with those guys.
”Everyday kids ask him, ‘Hey Barak, why aren’t you playing this year?’ and he will look at me and point.”
This season, though, he has a No. 82 jersey to wear to his games, one of which will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium on Aug. 23 before the Indianapolis Colts play a preseason game.
His passion for sports cannot be missed and is a big part of his relationship with Josiah.. When they play basketball, Tim said Barak plays with no fear and plays like he can beat Josiah.
“That would be awesome,” he said of beating his older brother. “When I get older, I want to be an NBA player.”
That is a place where Josiah feels a sense of inspiration from his brother. He sees his desire to play sports, but the limits that are placed on him are restricting. In turn, Barak serves to help him appreciate his abilities more.
”I feel like I’m extremely blessed because he is one of those kids that wants to be a great athlete, but just can’t because of the way God made him,” Josiah said. “That is not going to be his strong suit because his muscles don’t work the way he wants them to.
”In that, he is a huge inspiration to me.”
The inspiration for them goes far beyond the athletic field, however. Barak looks up to Josiah for the person he is and says hopes to be just like him.
“Josiah is a Christian, he loves God and he is a great person,” he said. “I want to be great like Josiah and love God and be a Christian and do everything like him and I want to be on TV.”
Josiah has found himself wanting to find ways to give back and said he spends a lot of time in the community. From reading books at a school, sharing his testimony at a church, he wants to do it all.
”If I can slide it in my schedule, I will do it,” he said. “I also went on a missions trip to South Africa last year and have been on several missions trips to Honduras and did one to Katrina (in New Orleans).”
Above all, Josiah has a heart sensitive to those with special needs. He spent his past two summer breaks working with a young adult last summer and an adult this summer.
”I get a huge reward out of those things,” he said. “It’s not work for me. If they wouldn’t have paid me, I would have been perfectly okay with that. I just love being around people like that.
”They really truly inspire me to be more grateful with my life because to see people like that in the situations they were born into or an event happened that was very unfortunate, it just makes me be that much more grateful to be able to play Big Ten college football.
”Just when I sit back and look at life, I’m so blessed and I should be so grateful.”
He plans on spending his next two summers doing the same thing in the East Lansing area as well, while long term he is focused on a possible career serving people in some capacity.
“I have thought about going into full time missions or something like that,” he said. “I might love to work in the inner city taking care of youth or something.
”That’s down the road. I try to focus on football right now and I am going to ride out my football career as long as I can then when that is done, I will figure out what I really truly want to get into.”
While Josiah no longer drives Barak to school each morning, he does make an appearance picking him up once in a while. It usually comes as a big surprise to Barak, as his parents do not always tell him when Josiah will be coming home.
“He surprises me at school because he loves me so bad,” Barak said. “When my brother comes home, when Josiah comes home, I like to play and I like to hug him so bad.”
His next chance should be coming soon, as the Spartans will break fall camp on Aug. 21 and Josiah hopes to head home for Barak’s birthday party when he turns 12 on Aug. 22.
“It’s crazy to see him get bigger and bigger,” Josiah said. “He still wants me to carry him around, but I tell him, ‘Dude, you’re getting near 100 pounds.’ It’s not like I can pick him up as easily these days.”
But with his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame, it should not be too much of a problem. And in that moment, he really is a Superman, making someone else fly – and vice versa.