By Gray Gardner.
CLEMSON – Philip Price has been one of many surprises for the 2011 Tigers. Price, a former walk-on tight end, has played the last three seasons at offensive tackle and debuted as the Tigers’ starter at the position back in September. Since then, Price has proven himself over and over again as one of the team’s best linemen.
Saturday will be the Dillon native’s final game in Death Valley – a milestone for most who cherish the tradition rich atmosphere of Memorial Stadium. But Price said he isn’t getting sentimental about it.
“I’m sure maybe in ten years I’ll say, man that was my last game,” Price said. “I’m excited more for the other guys. It’s more of a big deal to them than it is for me.”
Price said that he wants the younger players to enjoy the traditions, but that he would rather just play the game.
“I want them to have a good time. I want them to enjoy it. I want the young guys to understand that it will be them at some point,” he said. “But as far as I’m concerned, how I feel about it, I just want to play the game.”
“I’ve always said I cannot stand pregame for any game. I like how it worked in high school – you walk out of the locker room, you go play the game. That’s how I like it.”
Price was quick to cover his statement, knowing the Clemson faithful could possibly take offense to his non-love for the Tigers’ pregame traditions.
“I mean, I enjoy running down the hill, it’s nice,” he clarified. “But I’d rather just run out there and play the game. It’s whatever.”
Indeed Price’s focus seems to be solely on the game itself with his reward measured in wins and losses.
“That’s what means something to me more than anything else,” Price said of the stakes of Saturday’s divisional championship against Wake Forest. “You’ve got to focus on doing what you’ve got to do – not beating ourselves. That’s got to be our main focus this week. Not beating ourselves, playing the right way – just hoping things fall the right way.”
Price said although his team has had a good run so far this season, he won’t be at ease until they win the next one.
“I can’t speak for any body else, but I’m not going to feel good until we get that ninth win. That’s just me, though. 9-1 sounds so much better than 8-1 sounds. I don’t know – I’m just itching, ready to go and get out there and start playing.”
Price remembers all too well the taste of losing from a season ago. When asked his feelings from winning the division two years ago, the senior said it works both ways.
“I remember, but I also remember losing in the ACC Championship Game and getting oranges tossed at us. So I mean that’s what I remember.”
That year the Tigers lost to Georgia Tech in the team’s first appearance in the championship since it begun in 2009.
Price seemed to intimate that a loss in the championship game, or – heaven forbid – a loss Saturday against Wake Forest, would ruin everything else the team has accomplished this season. Price has been leading the younger players with a message that he hopes will help them avoid the fate of the 2009 and 2010 teams:
“Losing stinks. Just make sure – you’ve got to stay focused and you’ve got to keep working. There’s no replacement for preparation and hard work,” Price said. “And understanding for them how important the offseason is to get your body right, get your mind right, to take advantage of spring ball, take advantage of summer workouts.”
“There’s not replacement for hard work and study. That’s what I would try to pass along to them.”
Price said he also offers an axiom that head coach Dabo Swinney has been echoing for years:
“You’ve got to be humble about everything, because if you don’t stay humble, somebody will humble you in a heartbeat.”
Philip Price may have good reason not be sentimental about his last game in Death Valley: his leadership and passion for winning is leaving a legacy with younger players that will be carried out for seasons to come.