Archdeacon: ‘Cornerstone’ Price clears path to victory for Buckeyes

In the world of college football — where bruises and bravado often dominate — Ohio State regularly gives one nod to sentimentality after each game when the team gathers in front of the band and sings the cherished alma mater, Carmen Ohio, as the fans chime in.

With that in mind, Billy Price — on what had been a historic performance for him Saturday at Ohio Stadium — was asked how he felt about next Saturday when the Buckeyes play Illinois.

It will be the last home game of the season and the last game ever at the Horseshoe for Price, whose storied career now includes an OSU record 51 consecutive starts.

“Your last Carmen Ohio in the Stadium, have you thought about that?” he was asked after the Bucks had just dismantled No. 12 Michigan State, 48-3.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be here five years,” he said. “I’ve been part of some great wins and some tough losses. Now it’s down to the last one and it’s bittersweet. The game is gonna be emotional. I’ve already prepared my mom — yeah, it’s gonna be emotional.”

After the way Urban Meyer had gushed about him moments earlier in his postgame press conference, Price was told he should be worried about preparing his head coach, too.

Meyer already had been awash in emotion when he heard Price referred to as “a cornerstone” of the program.

“Yeah, I think cornerstone is an appropriate word,” he said. “I think as long as I am around Ohio State, I’ll make sure that the guy is treated with legendary status because he has done everything I’ve ever asked of him. And that includes off the field, his leadership when times are tough.

“Billy’s going to be a lifelong friend and he’ll be a Buckeye for the rest of his life. I’m glad we still have him for a few more games.”

Saturday’s game, though, was a milestone for the 6-foot-4, 312-pound center.

His start against the Spartans broke Luke Fickell’s OSU record of 50 consecutive starts, a mark that had stood 21 years. No Buckeye has started more consecutive games than Price.

And over that span, his career has been marked by excellence.

He was a starter on the 2014 national championship team. Last year he was named an All-American at right guard. This year he’s on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top center.

He’s a four-year starter, a two-year captain, and Saturday was one of his best performances ever.

Michigan State came into the game with the No. 3 defense in the nation against the run. But Price and his offensive line mates dominated the line of scrimmage.

Ohio State rushed for 335 yards and five touchdowns.

On the Buckeyes’ first score — a 47-yard burst up the middle by running back Mike Weber — Price had TWO key blocks. First he neutralized a lineman, then he turned and cleared out a linebacker.

Just as impressive was his performance last week after the Bucks’ numbing 55-24 loss at Iowa.

The collapse was monumental and with it went almost any hope of a national championship bid. Certainly no one thought the team could regroup in such glorious fashion that it would rout the Spartans like they did.

As for the turnaround, Meyer again pointed to Price.

“You say, ‘Coach, what did you say?’ I didn’t say anything. It was Billy Price. And I’m deeply indebted to him.

“Last week he was the one that took over the locker room.”

Price explained what made him step forward last week:

“Everybody was kind of stunned by the loss. And you get back and it’s like ‘What happened?’ Everybody asked what happened.

“But we still had all our goals in front of us. We had to make sure guys didn’t start deteriorating and people didn’t turn their backs on each other and point fingers.

“As a captain, an offensive leader, it was my job and the other (captains) to keep everybody on a positive note. Keep everybody moving in the right direction. We still have everything in front of us to play for.

“It was my job to keep guys positive, keep the guys focused.”

Ironically, at the start of his OSU career he failed at that when it came to himself.

He came to OSU as the 18th-ranked prep defensive tackle in the nation, but after two days of two-a-days he was ready to quit and told Meyer as much.

“I was soft,” he once told “I wasn’t 100 percent devoted. I hadn’t bought in. I was getting my ass kicked and I wanted out.”

He sought out Meyer in the lunch room and asked to speak to him privately.

“I told him, ‘I can’t do this because I don’t like playing football anymore,’ ” he once said. “ ‘I don’t like being here.’ ”

Meyer talked him off the ledge and they agreed Price should give the offensive line a try.

He redshirted that 2013 season and returned in 2014 under the tutelage of offensive line veterans Corey Linsley and Taylor Decker, who prepped at Butler High School in Vandalia and now plays for the Detroit Lions.

Price became a starter as the Bucks won the national title that year and his career was launched.

Fickell — who was a Buckeyes assistant coach when Price began his career and now is the head coach at Cincinnati — messaged the OSU center a few days ago to congratulate him for breaking the record.

And that prompted another question:

“So does that make you a legend?”

Price brushed aside the thought the way he had discarded Spartan defenders all day long:

“No, I’m not a legend. I’m just doing my job.”

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