Geoffrey Price: 'He's... Got That Special Leg'

After a rather adventurous week, IT was able to get the scoop on the <B>Geoffrey Price</B> commitment to the Longhorns. Finding a punter worthy of a scholarship offer became quite the chore for <B>Mack Brown</B> and Co. Rest assured that when Texas found the one they wanted, they got him. And boy did they get one of the best.

And to think the Oakland Raiders spent one of only seven draft picks on a kicker out of Florida State by the name of Sebastian Janikowski, not to mention, their first-round pick at that. If you go back a couple of more seasons you'll remember watching the Buccaneers select Martin Grammatica, K-State's kicker, in the third-round of the NFL Draft. Punters, on the other hand, are usually taken in the later rounds, but are deemed valuable enough for several teams to spend one of their seven draft picks on a guy who can knock the leather off the ball. And who could ever forget Ray Guy -- the punter from Southern Miss -- who was selected in the first-round of the 1973 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders? So, with an 85-man scholarship-limit to adhere to, what took Brown so long to find the next-best thing to Ray Guy? More important, what made him offer the Price kid? Maybe it was watching OU dominate the field position battle the last two years with the Ferguson brothers doing the punting duties. Perhaps, it was watching Cody Scates of A&M doing the same to the Sooners in their upset win last weekend. Then again, maybe last year's AP 5-A 1st-team all-state punter is absolutely incredible, hence extending the offer.

Geoffrey Price, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound, senior from Colleyville Heritage High School is not your typical punter. Utilizing his 4.6 speed in the forty, coach Chris Cunningham has Price headhunting on kickoffs and playing free safety on the defensive side of the ball.

"On kickoffs, he's the 'header' (similar to a 'gunner')," said Cunningham. "He is the guy that takes it right into the teeth of the wedge, you know, he's the wedge-buster, or whatever you want to call it. He's the first one down and has the responsibility of going straight to the football and he just makes some of the most ferocious tackles, I mean, he's the hardest hitting player on our football team."

Playing free safety this season, Price has accumulated 84 tackles, five pass break-ups, with one interception.

"And you know the neat thing about Geoffrey is, he never has said a word about playing free safety and kickoffs when he could have been worried about getting a scholarship as a punter," said Cunningham. "He's always known what he means to the team on kickoff coverage and he knows how important he is to the defense. And the punting's been important too. It's the reason we were able to finish as the No. 1 defense in 5-A in the state of Texas last year."

As a junior, the state's top-ranked punter averaged a whopping 45.6 yards on 19 punts. But this year, Price's average has dipped to 39.6 yards on eight punts. The head coach of Heritage, though, lists some factors contributing to the lower output.

"Geoffrey sprained his ankle really bad before the first ballgame," said Cunningham. "So, we had to wrap it, tape it and put a brace on it. The first four games of the season he didn't even punt. I mean, his foot was so taped up that he could not point his toe and the brace was really a hindrance. Missing those first four games didn't give him many opportunities to kick much either. I mean, he still played on the defense...I think he had 17 tackles the first ballgame...the kid's a ballplayer! Anyway, he started punting again by the fifth game of the season and still only managed to get eight punts during the regular season -- we just don't do a whole lot of punting. Even when he resumed punting, it was real painful for him and he still has to wear that has to force that foot down to get off the punt. He's got to play can't remove the tape and brace just so he can punt, because we wouldn't have enough time to get him back on defense."

"Also, the majority of his punts have come in poor weather conditions," Cunningham continued. "He probably kicked the ball three times in the game where it just poured, with one of those being in ankle-deep mud. The other games we either punted once or didn't have to. And on the next level he's going to get more opportunities to punt in a ballgame and that alleviates some of the pressure. You see, I feel that due to the fact Geoffrey only has a chance to hit maybe one punt in a ballgame -- and that's probably going to be the only punt -- he's putting a lot of pressure on himself because that particular punt may be the only one he gets on film. Of course, this was magnified a little more before Texas offered him a scholarship -- he can probably relax a little more now."

When asked what kind of conversation he had with coach Hardee McCrary pertaining to the 3-star blue-chipper, Cunningham said, "Well, they (McCrary and the Texas coaching staff) feel like based on what they've seen around the state and the country, he's the best one out there, as far as punters are concerned. I mean, he comes out in practice without the brace on booming 65- and 70-yarders -- one right after the other."

"Personally, I've never seen a kid with a leg like his. Granted, he hasn't had that great of a year, but that's strictly because of the brace. A week ago, this past Thursday, we were working on our tight coverage for punts out of the back of our endzone and I've never seen a punt like the one he hit. I mean, standing in the back of the endzone, he hits one that lands on the opposite 20-yardline and rolls into the other endzone. If you counted the roll, it was well over a hundred yards, but it was right at about 78 yards in the air. I mean, I never saw a punt like it, ever, from anybody. And everyone just stopped and watched it sailing through the air...and everyone just started clapping, I mean, it was just spontaneous you know, everybody just started clapping for him, you know, just couldn't believe it."

Well, Longhorn fans certainly are excited about getting Geoffrey Price.

"Well, they should be," said Cunningham tickled as he was when we started this interview as well as throughout it. "I'd find it hard to believe that there's anyone in the country as good as him. I just can't imagine it. He's just special, you know, he's just got that special leg...the ball comes off his foot and explodes and it's mind-boggling to think that most of that (talent) is natural, it's not like we're coaching him or anything. We just try to leave him alone as much as possible, it's like 'Don't Screw Him Up!'. And once he gets coaching, I just can't imagine how good he's going to be."

With Price excited having the flagship university in the state of Texas offer him a scholarship?

"We sat down on Monday and we talked about the offer from Texas," said Cunningham. "And he (Price) was just beside himself -- thrilled. So, was his mother -- she's a counselor here at the school. And we were just thinking that here's an offer that you can't refuse and he knew that. So, it didn't take him long to make that decision."

With Notre Dame and some other schools entering the fray, it's hard to believe they hadn't offered the kid.

"Well, it's hard to speak for them, as far as the other programs are concerned, but Notre Dame and Iowa and Oklahoma were showing a lot of interest and I don't know whether they thought, maybe, Geoffrey would have said he needed to think about the offer once he got one, you know, giving them some time to offer a 'ship. But to me...when Texas offers you...there's not a whole lot to think about, I mean, it's not like somebody better is going to come along."

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