The pedigree of Price is grounded in the 21 years he spent living on the Palouse. All three of his children were born in Pullman. He played football at Washington State in 1965-66, was a graduate assistant in 1969-70, coached the Cougar running backs from 1974-77 and was head coach of the Cougars from 1989-2002. Perhaps Price is most known for leading the Cougars to the Rose Bowl twice, on New Year's Day in 1998 and again in 2003.
In the first part of our exclusive interview with Price, we asked about memorable teams, moments and players.
COUGFAN: There were many great moments made in Cougar football history while you were at the helm. Which one stands out most?
Price: For me personally, it was going to the first Rose Bowl ('98) and beating Washington in Seattle ('97). Somehow my daughter got down to the field. She was a senior in college at the time and got down to the field in Husky Stadium and hugged me just seconds after we won the game. My brother, Jeff Price, flew in unbeknownst to me. He was in the locker room when I came in. We’re real close as brothers and that was very emotional for me to have him there in the locker room after that win.
And to have my wife, Joyce, there right outside the (locker room) door when we were presented with the invitation to the Rose Bowl was a thrill (pictured above).
That whole half hour after the game just stands out. We had so many great things happen over the course of my time (at WSU). For me personally seeing my daughter, I don’t know how the heck she got down there on the field after the game, then my brother was in the locker room and my wife was outside the door so it was just a tremendous experience.
COUGFAN: Is there special meaning for you to be inducted into the HOF along with one of your great quarterbacks, Jason Gesser?
Price: He’s like part of the family for us. He’s very close with my two sons (Aaron and Eric). For him to come from Hawaii to Pullman was quite a recruiting coup. Jason has been a close friend and it’s just wonderful to share this honor with him.
My son Eric recruited Jason and I thought he was just going over to Hawaii to enjoy the sun. He hit it off with Jason’s dad, Jim, real well. Then I hit it off with his dad. His grandpa and grandma were a part of it. Jason and I just got along really well.
I often laughed with Jason when we were doing calisthenics before practice and it’s snowing and raining in the frozen weather in Pullman, ‘Why in the world did you ever come here when you could be in Hawaii?’
COUGFAN: Did Gesser ever have an answer for you?
Price: I don’t know. He’ll probably have an answer sometime this weekend. It probably had a lot to do with Eric Price though.
COUGFAN: One of the all-time best WSU defensive units was found on your 1994 team. Can you talk about how the Palouse Posse turned into something outstanding?
Price: The offensive coaches (for the '94 team) might have been the most frustrated coaches of anybody in the country. They couldn’t get a first down in practice to save our neck. Our poor offense just got the hell kicked out of them every practice.
That was just a tremendous defense Mike Zimmer (WSU ‘89-’93 defensive coordinator, now Minnesota Vikings head coach) and Bill Doba (‘94-’02 defensive coordinator and WSU head coach ‘03-’07) put together. If it wasn’t for those two guys constantly, not arguing, but discussing personnel, recruiting personnel and making personnel changes in putting really good offensive players on defense...they were responsible for us building that great defense we had.
Mark Fields was the best running back in Los Angeles, played linebacker. Anthony McClanahan was the best running back in Bakersfield, played linebacker. Will Derting was a great running back in eastern Washington, played linebacker. Erik Coleman, great running back in Spokane, (played) defense. Marcus Trufant great running back, and Singor Mobley was the best running back in the state of Washington, defense.
Torey Hunter was an outstanding receiver at Curtis High. Leon Bender was a great tight end. Rien Long was a tight end in high school. We moved all those kids to defense. That wouldn’t have happened without the constant reinforcement of Mike Zimmer and Bill Doba.
It was amazing. I was an offensive coach and guys would come in and I always wanted to put them on offense. They (coaches) would argue with me and fight with me.
COUGFAN: Can you put into words what it will mean to you to become part of the Washington State Hall of Fame this weekend?
Price: I’m tickled to death. I’m really honored. It’s something I never dreamed of and I didn’t really think that it would ever happen. I’m very grateful that it did and am very honored that it did.
NOTE: In addition to Price and Gesser, the other five 2016 inductees into the WSU Athletics Hall of Fame are Mark Hendrickson (basketball/baseball, 1992-96); Marv Chamberlain (baseball, 1970-74); Erin Eldridge (swimming, 1996-2000); Jennifer Robertson (track & field, 1988-93); Marcia Saneholtz (administrator, 1979-2007).
CF.C's interview with Mike Price continues tomorrow with topics ranging from opposing coaches, some of his quarterbacks and the Snow Bowl.
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