REGINA – Keith Price’s time has finally come.
Now in his second tour of duty with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Price has been told by interim head coach Bob Dyce that the young quarterback will finally see playing time, perhaps a start, over the remaining three weeks of the season.
“I’m ready,” said the 24-year-old Price, as he and his teammates prepare to host the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday night at Mosaic Stadium.
The Eskimos (12-4) have won six straight games, while Saskatchewan (2-13) has lost their previous two games before they enjoyed a bye this past week.
With starter Kevin Glenn traded to the Montreal Alouettes during the week off, the Roughriders’ quarterbacking carousel will take another spin. Brett Smith, who has started seven games this season, will share playing time with Price, who hasn’t played in a game since he was released by the Seattle Seahawks in 2014.
Price said he and Smith share a close bond. The two first met a few years ago in California during a scouting combine and have maintained a solid relationship ever since.
“He’s a really good buddy of mine,” Smith said. “We’ve stayed in contact ever since we first met a few years ago. “We definitely push each other and I think you need that to create a competitive environment among the quarterbacks. We both want this job and we’re both helping the other guy and I think it has been a productive relationship.
“Your mentality changes a little when you go from third string to first string,” Smith added. “It has been a crazy season because we used to have five quarterbacks here, and then I was backup and then a starter and then a backup again.
Smith is pleased that he and his friend are getting the chance to showcase their skills together.
“(Price) wasn’t doing anything at the beginning of this year and then he was called in and now he’s in the position he’s in where he’s going to play at some point,” said Smith. “This is an opportunity for both of us and one we’re both embracing it.”
A high school football star growing up in Compton, Calif., Price boasted gaudy numbers – nearly 3,000 all-purpose yards and 34 combined touchdowns as a senior at St. John Bosco High.
Price’s accomplishments, however, were overshadowed by fellow senior Matt Barkley, a quarterback at Bosco’s rival Mater Dei High.
“It was a really tough league,” Price said. “It wasn’t uncommon for our league to have four or five teams nationally ranked. When I was playing there, our league was voted No. 1 or No. 2 in the country, so there was a tough game every week.”
Barkley was named the national player of the year that year and went on to be a standout quarterback with the USC Trojans. Price signed with the Pac-12 rival Washington Huskies.
Price found himself in another situation where he had to prove his value with the Huskies. Again, Price played second fiddle to another star player. The starting quarterback with the Huskies was Jake Locker, a future first-round draft pick in the NFL.
“It was tough to take sometimes. It was tricky,” he said. “I promised my grandma and myself and my family that anywhere I go I’m going to try to be the best. I worked so hard when I was younger to get where I am now. Those situations weren’t easy and they tested me and my patience.
“I haven’t played in a game in almost two years and meanwhile I’ve seen guys that I played with or played against go on to great things with their careers. God has tested me, He has challenged me and He has kept me going.”
Price finally earned his opportunity to start, and once he did, he flourished in that role and eventually had his name mentioned in conversations about Heisman Trophy candidates following his 2011 season.
The Riders have three regular season games remaining and Price is expected to get on the field at some point, perhaps as early as Saturday. Whenever his number is called, he said he’ll welcome the long-awaited opportunity.
“Obviously there are some things I need to clean up,” he said. “But I’ve been working hard at practice, having fun, and I think I’m ready to go.”