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Heritage senior defensive back and receiver Jaden Price heard from one of the NFL’s best players – and a local legend – following a recent game.
After Heritage’s 35-28 victory over Freedom on April 2, Freedom graduate and Cincinnati Bengals star running back Joe Mixon – a former five-star prospect – went up to Price and delivered him a message he is still enthralled about.
“He was like, ‘Man, I love how you’re playing. You’re a hell of a player. I can’t wait to see what else you do.’ That kind of lifted up my spirits, and I was like, ‘Ah, that’s Joe Mixon. Let’s go. That’s crazy,’” Price said.
Price is living up to Mixon’s words during his final high school campaign, part of a Patriots squad that is on the verge of school history.
They are 4-1 overall and 3-1 in Bay Valley Athletic League play, just one win away from tying the school’s best-ever league mark, which they would accomplish if they beat in-city rival Liberty in the Brentwood Bowl at 7 p.m. Friday.
Each of the past two games saw Price register eight tackles, putting him at a team-high 32 for the year in addition to two tackles for loss, one interception and one fumble recovery. He also has 138 receiving yards, three touchdown catches and three efforts of 40-plus yards.
“I think that I’ve grown so much due to quarantine,” Price said. “I’ve definitely gotten a lot bigger, better mindset, just more positive. I got a better view on myself, and I just feel like I’ve been a lot better.”
While the pandemic was rolling on and the season was delayed into the spring, that’s when Price really utilized the time period to his advantage and never looked back.
Following an impressive junior year when he led the BVAL in interceptions (3), Price worked on everything about himself. It wasn’t just about his game, his coverage skills or what he could do on the football field.
He was focused on becoming a greater leader and leading Heritage back to the promised land, as the program combined for three wins the previous two years and last made the playoffs in 2017.
“I think just I have a better football IQ, which has helped me a lot and plus my strength combined is just helping me be out there, helping me be a captain out there, letting my friends know what’s going on,” Price said. “And especially my teammates, just telling them what to do and they tell me what to do. Nobody gets mad at each other for telling each other what to do. It’s all about accountability.”
All of that growth hasn’t just been evidenced during the high school season either.
Price was a consistent star performer in the showcase scene, and he was also a defensive back on Cal Strength’s Winner Circle Athletics team in Southern California that only lost once in six weeks.
“It gave me a lot of confidence going up against a lot of good guys over there, especially SoCal,” Price said. “There were a couple of teams we played with two stars and three stars and four stars, already committed and stuff. And just playing against them and seeing how I went up against them is a great opportunity for me, and how I will be at the next level when I do play.”
Currently, Price boasts some Division III offers from Concordia Chicago, Concordia Wisconsin, Hamline, Iowa Wesleyan, Lawrence Tech, Pacific and Puget Sound.
Additionally, Price said he is talking to Adams State and Mercyhurst, and is also getting help from BT Thompson and seeing if he could maybe get a spot with an FCS program after the spring season is done for high school and the FCS levels.
But he remains positive despite the unusual circumstances of a delayed season and how it has impacted recruiting, along with athletes garnering a free year of eligibility in the NCAA.
“It’s still tough seeing like all the roster spots are filled up for all the D1 teams, like FBS, FCS, so it depends,” Price said. “My spirits aren’t low. I’m willing to go JUCO and see where I can put my talents after that.”
What Price does know is that wherever he lands, that respective college will get everything out of him.
“I’m willing to be a leader,” Price said. “That’s my drive. That’s what I love to be. I love to be a leader, and I’m just all about that. I love to just be out there on the field, give it my 100%, 110% actually and just get better and better every single day.”
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