LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — EJ Price is taking his official visit to UGA this weekend, and his status as one of the nation’s elite offensive tackles makes him a must-sign.
Yet he’s more than a bookend tackle to keep five-star passer Jacob Eason upright for the next three-to-four seasons. That can be found out by talking to people he doesn’t have any reason to be anything more than cordial to.
That eliminates the coaches at Archer High, his teammates and teachers. Those people can enable his football dream. Less-than-ideal characters all have a reason to be nice to those folks.
Getting beyond the book bag and helmet involves learning about one trip to the coffee shop at Archer High School. That’s where Price goes for his daily mochaccino. He’s an All-American football player, but that trip led to where he’s done the most good at Archer this year.
Ask special education teacher Jennifer Westbrook about that day and what it inspired. Price will now eat lunch with her students now. They spy him before she does in the halls. She feels Price connects with her kids in ways that she and her peers cannot.
The All-American tackle spends at least 20 minutes each day time Westbrook’s “kids.” Has it meant more to Price? Or Westbrook’s students? Check out the video interview above to form your own conclusion.
Westbrook doesn’t use “ideal size” or “All-American” or “future NFL body type” to describe him.
Beautiful. Gentle. Kind. Lovable. Loyal. Sweet. Pleasant. Smiling. Uplifting.
Those are her words. Westbrook said she’d adopt Price as her own son quicker than it takes to pour a cup of that coffee if he needed that. She’s no football or Georgia fan, but she said she’d become one in an instant if Price signed with UGA.
The last time she followed Georgia football was when Herschel Walker owned end zones. That might change with a good official visit for Price this weekend.
“EJ has made a difference in how I feel about football players,” she said. “He’s got something special in him. Something extra. That was why I paid attention to Herschel when he was at Georgia.”
Her terms aren’t the ones UGA line coach Sam Pittman might use for Price one day with NFL scouts. But he might use them one day when talking about a player he was blessed to coach.
“Not everybody gives football players a chance to show their other side and all, but EJ has got a very good side any way you turn him or take a look at him,” Westbrook said.
That day over coffee has grown to be a haven for Price during days when every recruiting reporter in the South wants to know his thoughts on UGA or Auburn or a wild card like Southern Cal or Michigan.
“He’s got a kind heart,” Westbrook said. “He’s got a gentle spirit. He’s a gentle giant. He’s a beautiful creature through and through. Any college he picks should be honored to have him. Just because he’ll be loyal. He’ll be trustworthy. He’ll do his best. I think he will bring great team spirit. He’s uplifting and he’s sweet.”
What kind of player is Price? The highlights below reveal that. The 6-foot-6, 323-pounder is a physical road grader who has whipped the best in the nation. Watch the tape — especially his camp work against five-stars like Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson — and try not to be impressed.
Why doesn’t he have five stars? Good question. The “experts” label him as raw. Price also only made the All-Gwinnett County second team this year. That shows the kind of ball that is played in that pocket of Georgia.
Price rates as a four-star prospect, the No. 8 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 84 player overall in the Class of 2016.
Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.