Keith Price was swallowed by the talking heads filling tents at Pacific-12 Conference Media Day in Culver City, Calif., at the end of July.
The demand made him last to arrive at Washington’s designated lunch table.
Price ran through a litany of interviews, mostly with out-of-town folks working off what they heard and read about his 2012 season. They asked over and over which Price will show up in 2013. He’s used to it now.
Really, Price was just eager to head home and see his family. Safety Sean Parker, another California kid, was going to head over to the Price house, too.
“Guess that’s where the party’s at,” Price joked.
Price hopes during the season the parties are in the end zone. He has taken the torch from Jake Locker in more than one way. He’s the face of the program, a senior leader now, and the easily the most criticized player on the team.
Price brutalized himself over his late-game mistakes last season, a year that was a significant downturn from his debut in 2011. Much of talk radio brutalized him, too.
There were even misguided, wrong-headed calls for him to be benched. Concern about Price’s production this year has continued into the offseason and will until Aug. 31.
“I know people need a topic for the offseason,” Price said. “I know I’m the topic. I’m the hot topic right now, I guess. When they talk Husky football, they want to mention my name every time. But, hey, it’s understandable. I’m the quarterback of the team. I shoulder the losses. I blame myself.
“I feel like I’m battle-tested. I’ve been at the high of the high and the low of the low. I’m just ready to perform.”
This is it for Price. He’s a fifth-year senior. He’s surrounded by as much skill-player talent as he had in 2011. He contends the offensive line, which struggled more than any other unit last season, is getting better by the day. He says his grumpy knees feel great.
“We’re going to be awesome (on offense),” Price said. “I guess I’m the biggest question mark now. That’s funny. We’re going to be fine. We weren’t a very good offensive team last year. Point blank. This year, we got a chance.”
He has also become more taskmaster and less pure pal during summer workouts with teammates. If players were late, he was irritated and told them. Even coach Steve Sarkisian noted that Price had become tougher on the people around him. That means his demands on them were catching up with the demands he puts on himself.
“He’s a grinder,” wide receiver Kasen Williams said. “His attitude toward the game is always the same. Every rep he wants to get better. Every rep he takes seriously.”
If Price were to produce the combined statistical average of his two seasons as the starting quarterback, his 2013 line will look like this: 63.9 percent completion percentage, 2,895 yards, 26 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 142.1 efficiency rating.
A season like that would make Price second all-time in passing yards at Washington and only the second Huskies quarterback to throw for more than 8,000 yards (Cody Pickett has the record of 10,220).
Playing up to his statistical average would also garner Price three of the school’s top five season bests for completion percentage and three top 10 spots for touchdown passes. He’ll also no doubt become the Huskies’ all-time leader in passing touchdowns.
He’s one touchdown behind Pickett’s 55 career touchdown passes despite throwing 598 fewer passes (1,429 to 831, coming into this year).
Price will also be No. 1 in career passing efficiency with an average of his two seasons. He’s No. 1 now with a 138.9 rating after two seasons. Second is Damon Huard, who had a 130.3 career rating.
If he throws 12 interceptions this year, he will move into a tie for fourth in that category.
Though, coming into the season, he has the second-lowest career interception percentage at the school at .0289. Only Isaiah Stanback, who threw about 300 fewer passes, has a better rating at .0229.
A good comparison point is Brock Huard. Brock threw 875 passes. Price has thrown 831. Brock’s interception percentage is .0354, as is Damon’s. Marques Tuiasosopo’s is .0355.
“My uncle said something the other day, ‘Man, they’re doubting you, but for any other quarterback, that’s probably a good season (2012) for some people,’ ” Price said. “I said, ‘I’m not any other quarterback. I set a certain expectation for myself and I’m expected to perform at that level.’ ”
Therein lies the easiest solution for Price. Dramatic, game-changing errors — like at the end of the Apple Cup, among others last season — need to go away. His completion percentage needs to again rise. It fell from a crisp 66.9 percent in 2011 to 60.9 percent last season.
If those things happen, though it’s everyone else talking, Price will actually dictate the words coming out of their mouths.