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Price headed to Tennessee for mini-camp

Price was welcomed home today by his family and friends, just hours after accepting an invitation to go to the Tennessee Titans' mini-camp. (Northern Review photo/ Grant Pepper)

Late Saturday night, Ohio Northern’s Devon Price accepted a deal with the Tennessee Titans that will allow him to participate in their mini-camp in two weeks. According to his agent, Bardia Ghahremani, Price is considered a ‘free agent,’ although he could potentially sign with the Titans while at mini-camp.

The mini-camp will essentially serve as a tryout for Price and other Titan rookies, both drafted players and undrafted free agents. If he is signed at the mini-camp, then he will be invited to Tennessee’s training camp this summer.

Price, undoubtedly the most decorated receiver in ONU history, had hopes of getting selected in the late rounds of this weekend’s NFL Draft, but his name was not called. Ghahremani then went to work, sorting through offers from different organizations to find a fit that seemed most favorable for Price.

Tennessee drafted just one receiver with their ten picks, and they have receivers who are similar to Price on their current roster, which lends to the idea that he could fit within their system. According to Ghahremani, Tennessee is a place where Price could potentially make the roster.

“They have no depth, and they play guys like him,” Ghahremani said.

The Titans’ most esteemed receivers on their current depth chart are ones like Harry Douglas and Kendall Wright, who are both quick, slashing, slot receivers like Price.

While Price believed he had a chance of getting drafted, he says that he is still excited about finding an opportunity in the NFL as a free agent.

“It’s an opportunity for me to get a foot in the door and earn that contact, which is a dream come true,” Price said. “It is truly a blessing.”

Although the draft ended at approximately 6:45 p.m. on Saturday, Price did not hear from Ghahremani about the Titans until close to 10 p.m. Dawn Price, Devon’s mother, said that she had a hard time containing her excitement when she heard the news.

“I started bawling,” Dawn said. “It had been a long day, and we had probably asked Devon every hour, ‘Have you heard from your agent yet?’ Then his agent called, and on my end, all I heard was, “Ok. Ok. Well it looks like it’s Tennessee!” And I just screamed.”

For both Devon and his mother, reality hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” Devon said. “It might take me putting an NFL helmet on for me to really understand what’s taking place in my life right now, but right now it still hasn’t hit me yet.”

“It is definitely hard for me to wrap my head around this,” Dawn said. “It’s been a long, hard ride, and it’s still hard for me to believe.”

For the time being, this opportunity has caused Price’s motivation to rise to a new level.

“I woke up this morning and wanted to go work out. It makes me want to work even harder, and to continue to grind and try to support my family,” Price said.

If Price were to sign with Tennessee, he would be just the sixth Polar Bear to sign with an NFL team. He is coming off of a record-breaking senior season at Northern, where he was also named a second-team All-American.

Ghahremani currently represents the last Polar Bear to turn pro, Minnesota’s Jason Trusnik. Trusnik began his NFL career as an undrafted free agent as well, signing with the New York Jets in 2007. He is now entering his tenth year in the league.

“When you’re in, you’re in, and it doesn’t matter how you get in; whether you’re a seventh-round pick or a rookie free agent,” Ghahremani said last week. “To me, whoever works the hardest stays in. That’s why Trusnik is playing nine, ten years now, is because coaches noticed how the young man would show up, and how he would be the last one to leave the building at night. And that’s what you have to bring, because you are coming in from the bottom.”

Price ran a 4.40-second 40-yard dash in his pro day in March, which Ghahremani believes helped him immensely when it came to gaining the attention of NFL scouts.

“When you run well, you can get an opportunity at different places,” Ghahremani said.

“You have to understand, there are not many guys that can run a 4.4,” Ghahremani said last week. “You’ve got guys who might have a lot of production, might be a little bit bigger, but even for guys at Devon’s size, 4.4 is a hard number to hit. The fact that he hit a 4.4 and had a really good workout, that’s the biggest thing. For the NFL teams, he’s got production, he’s got speed, and [they] can work with these tools.”

Price has overcome many obstacles in his path to the NFL, including an ACL tear last spring that some thought would sideline him for his senior season at ONU. He also faces the stereotypes associated with being a Division III athlete, which Ghahremani believes will be his biggest obstacle as he tries to make it into the NFL.

“If he played at Alabama, he might be a definite draft pick,” Ghahremani said before the draft. “But the fact that it’s Ohio Northern, a D-III school- the competition level changes, and everybody looks at that a little bit differently.”

But Price is willing to embrace these challenges, as he has his whole life. He was the kid with asthma playing youth football, who grew up in inner-city Toledo and was raised by a single mother. He was the kid who tore his ACL just six months before the start of his last college season. He was the kid who played for a Division III school, and who wasn’t even on official NFL scouting lists until halfway through his senior year. And now, he is the kid who went undrafted.

He knows the obstacles that he has faced, and those which he currently faces. He accepts them, internalizes them, and uses them as fuel. Going undrafted just adds to the chip on his shoulder.

“I just want to prove that I can play,” Price said. “I understand that I came from a D-III school, but I know what I can do and I know what my pro day results show, so once I get an opportunity, I have to make the best of it.”

Now, Price has that opportunity.

On Sunday, Price’s family and friends surprised him in his return home, as they awaited him with balloons, cake and hugs of relief.

After some left, Devon sat at the dining room table with his mother, Jamie Williams (his father-figure), and some friends as they discussed the future. They talked about how Devon would be starting from the bottom, but at least it was a start.

With an expression of relief and satisfaction, an attitude ever-fleeting for one as driven as Price, Devon said, “I’m good with eating the crumbs right now.”

And with a glance of pride and admiration, his mother looked at him and said, “That’s OK. You’re still eating.”