Cameron: Priceless ambition kept Stamps receiver on pro football path
CFL’s hottest pass catcher Maurice Price never let go of his dream
One day in Orlando, Fla., Maurice Price came home from elementary school and gave a school assignment he’d completed earlier in the day to his mom, Monica Gadson.
It was the old, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question. And on it, little Maurice had written an answer no doubt submitted by millions of kids all over North America on annual basis: “I want to be a professional football player.”
The conversation when Maurice got home from school could have gone in a few different directions. Monica could have told her son that it was nice to have a dream, but real life generally doesn’t work that way.
But she never did. Not on that day. Not on any day.
“I always said that if that’s what you want to be, you have to work hard to achieve it,” said Gadson on Tuesday from her home in Orlando. “I never told him not to. I always believed that if that’s what you want to be, then that’s what you can be. And I saw his passion.”
Even when Price was bouncing from team to team (10 of them), league to league (four of them) in search of a pro football opportunity, neither he nor his mother ever stopped believing that some day that school assignment would prove prophetic.
“I saw his commitment to football, and I knew that one day he’d land here,” said Gadson. “I never had a doubt. Maurice is just the type of person that when he makes up his mind to do something, he’s not a quitter. I knew he was capable of it. Even though it’s taken five years to get to this point, it seems like it’s happened so fast.”
It has indeed. In just eight games (six in the regular season, two more in the playoffs), the 27-year-old Calgary Stampeders receiver has established himself as the top big-play threat left standing in the Canadian Football League playoffs, a dangerously fast, dangerously shifty playmaker who’s caught touchdown passes in four of his last five games and has gone over the 100-yard mark in receiving in four straight games.
“Oh, man, it’s unbelievable,” said Price on Wednesday at the Stamps’ Grey Cup media luncheon. “I mean, it’s pretty much my first year of getting on the field, and to be playing for a championship? I don’t know, it’s hard to put in words.”
In one sense it has come quickly, but in another, it has taken time — years and years of hard work and patience to land Price in this position. And the seeds were planted early. At his first tryout with the Olympia High School Titans in Orlando, Price didn’t turn any heads with his awe-inspiring talent or physique. But he did with his willingness to work.
“A tall skinny kid who was just a hard worker from the very first day,” recalled Titans receivers coach Kevin McElveen. “He would do anything to get on the field — the kind of kid that as a coach you want to reward for all that hard work, so that he would keep working hard. And that has definitely paid off.”
He kept working hard through high school (he was a teammate of future NFL star running back Chris Johnson) and at college at Charleston Southern, and stuck with it despite team after team telling him he was good, but not quite good enough.
“I really don’t think I ever got to that point of giving up,” said Price. “I knew. I knew I was destined for this. I knew this was what I was meant to be doing. I knew I had what it took. It was just a matter of being in the right situation and getting that opportunity. I’m not going to lie and say it never crossed my mind, but I never got to that breaking point.”
Gadson knew early on that her son didn’t just like football. It went way beyond that.
“He got hurt during Pop Warner — I want to say his knee — so he had to sit out three or four games,” she recalled. “But he wanted to go to the games and stand on the sidelines. He was crying because he wanted to play so bad. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this boy really loves football.’ That’s when I knew he had the passion.”
It’s finally paying off. Price finds himself one win shy of a championship and the breakout star of the 2012 CFL post-season. His mom and two brothers (Marquis lives in Tampa, James near Kansas City) will all be holding Grey Cup viewing parties on Sunday with friends and relatives, hoping that in the CFL’s biggest show, Maurice continues to play like he’s unstoppable.
“That’s kind of how I always feel, regardless,” he said. “I mean, I always feel like no one man is going to stop me. I’m not going to let the person across from me be better than me, and I’ll just do whatever I have to do to win that battle.”
And to make the dream come true.
email@example.comFollow Allen Cameron on Twitter/AllenCameronCH
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