By Jerry Briggs
Green Bay Packers nose guard Brian Price seemed more than happy to talk this week about his old friend and former teammate from UTSA, Drew Douglas.
“It’s funny that you mention Drew,” Price said, joking during a recent telephone interview from Green Bay Wis. “Just this week, he became a die-hard Packers fan.”
Well, not exactly.
But Douglas did confirm that he will be wearing Price’s Green Bay jersey (No. 96) to the Dallas Cowboys’ playoff game against the Packers at AT&T Stadium.
It’s all a part of a deal that Douglas grudgingly agreed to after accepting two tickets from Price, a first-year member of the Packers’ practice squad.
Price, a 315-pound nose guard, didn’t travel to Texas for the game because he is not on Green Bay’s active roster.
But he will watch with interest from his home on television as the Packers play the Cowboys for a spot in the NFC championship game. He’ll also be monitoring Instagram and Facebook for posts involving Douglas.
Earlier this week Douglas texted Price, asking for the tickets. Price came up with a unique plan to oblige his old friend, while tweaking him at the same time.
“I proposed a deal that if he took my tickets, he’d have to (post) a picture of him in front of AT&T Stadium, and put it (on Instagram) for me,” Price said Thursday afternoon. “It’s more of a goof than anything else. I get the last laugh in this one.”
Price and Douglas have a history of mischievous moments in their relationship. At UTSA, Douglas took some joy in pranking Price, a native of Indiana.
When Price would report to the locker room to dress out for practice, occasionally he’d find only one shoe at his cubicle.
Even on days when he had both shoes in place, sometimes one of them would be missing a shoelace.
“That was pretty much our entire relationship,” said Douglas, a former three-year starter who spent five years at UTSA through 2015. “I was always trying to hide one of his shoe laces. Or a cleat. It was anything, all the time, just poking and prodding each other.”
Douglas said “random stuff” would set Price off.
“One time during two-a-days in our senior year, he fell asleep on the floor (in the dressing room),” said Douglas, who works in medical sales in Dallas. “I mean, he was passed out. He had his legs crossed. So I went up and taped his ankles together. I used like an entire roll of athletic tape.”
Douglas will find himself in an equally uncomfortable position at the Cowboys-Packers game.
His friends will arrive at the stadium early on Sunday morning, primed to support the home team. But Douglas is now uncertain whether he wants to go early for the tailgate, considering he will be wearing a green and gold jersey that he received via overnight mail from Price Thursday afternoon.
“I was telling my dad that I hope he forgets to send it,” Douglas said. “I hope it just kind of slips his mind and he forgets. He didn’t forget.”
Price’s journey to the NFL is a story of persistence meeting opportunity.
Lightly recruited out of McCutcheon High School in Lafayette, Indiana, he elected to play in junior college in California, hoping to improve his game and his stock among college coaches.
In 2013, he signed with a little-known, two-year-old program at UTSA.
“Here’s a guy who was 6-3 and 320, and his flexibility was unbelievable,” former UTSA defensive line coach Eric Roark said. “He could hold his hands above his head. And then he could kick his foot up and hit his hands. Usually, guys that size, they can’t move six inches.”
At UTSA, Price played for three years, starting 13 of 31 games.
Slowed some by a shoulder surgery following his junior year, he nevertheless made 81 career tackles, including 28 solo. Price produced six tackles for loss, three sacks and seven quarterback hits.
Despite the modest statistical production, five NFL teams expressed interest in him following his senior year in 2015, Roark said.
The Packers signed him as an undrafted free agent in May, and he followed up later in the summer by playing in four straight preseason games.
Price also appeared in a regular-season game in September, banging against large offensive linemen for about 15 snaps in a home game against the Lions.
But by October, it was back to the practice squad.
Undaunted, he continued to work and improve. His talent and work ethic prompted the Indianapolis Colts to offer him a spot on their active roster in December.
Price declined, opting instead to take a beefed-up practice squad contract with the Packers.
“I talked to a scout from Green Bay (last fall) and they really like him,” Roark said. “I think they’ve encouraged him to stay put. I think they wanted him to have at least have an offseason with them, so they can develop him.”
Price said he thinks he has a future with the Packers.
“I can say that I hope to contribute a major effort to this organization,” he said. “I can’t predict the future. But by this time next year, I do feel that I can come in here and hopefully make a statement.”
Price credited UTSA coaches and teammates for preparing him for the NFL grind.
“Those guys taught me how to be a professional,” he said. “How to act, on and off the field. How to be a man … I had a lot of great teammates. A lot of guys that had my back, guys like (teammates) Drew Douglas and Jens Jeters.”
The big lineman still thinks so much of Douglas, he even hooked up the Dallas resident and life-long Cowboys fan with a pair of NFL playoff tickets.
On top of that, Price has supplied Douglas with an official NFL jersey -- a Packers jersey.
“It’s just going to be so confusing,” Douglas lamented. “During the game, I’ll be wearing that jersey, and cheering for the Cowboys. People sitting around us, they will not understand.”
The Green Bay rookie chuckled at the thought of his old friend wearing the green and gold.
“After all these years,” he said. “I finally get the last laugh.”