RENTON — Keith Price opened his quest to fashion a bicoastal quarterbacking career this weekend.
The University of Washington standout is in the process of proving he can complete passes on the other side of Lake Washington as a rookie free agent with the Seattle Seahawks.
It’s a huge step for Price, even if it’s only across the bridge.
He’ll obviously find it a more difficult environment in which to succeed in the long run, as an undrafted free agent, but his early action at the Seahawks’ rookie minicamp was promising.
On the camp’s first afternoon Friday, he threw two long touchdown passes to drafted receivers Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood.
He showed some of the same qualities he had while setting UW career passing records for touchdowns (75) and efficiency (143.0). He showed good arm strength and accuracy from the pocket and on the move, and he was in control of the offense and the huddle.
The problems Price faced at UW — being clobbered repeatedly by defenders — weren’t a factor in the nonpadded scrimmaging.
But he remains, as he was, slight of frame at 6-foot-1, 202 pounds.
He needn’t look far for inspiration as an undersized quarterback, as he has developed a friendship with Seahawks starter Russell Wilson — the perfect mentor for a talent like Price.
Asked whether his relationship with Wilson was a factor in wanting to sign with the Seahawks, Price said: “No doubt about it.”
He didn’t expand on the personal part of it, only that “he’s a student of the game, very competitive guy, and most of all he’s a leader, somebody that the team loves to rally around and play for.”
As a free agent, Price might have wanted to hold off and weigh options on offers from teams that seemed to offer a better chance to make the roster. With the Seahawks, he’d start off behind not only Wilson, but also veteran Tarvaris Jackson, returning reserve B.J. Daniels and the athletic Terrelle Pryor, who was recently picked up in a trade with Oakland.
But Price knew where he wanted to go as soon as the draft finished without his name being called.
“It probably wasn’t three minutes after the draft; Pete Carroll made the call and I committed,” Price said. “I kind of had my eyes set here. I was very familiar with the system, very familiar with the coaches, and I love this place. I love Seattle, I love being here, and it’s great competition at the quarterback spot and I’m a competitive guy.”
Some obvious factors work to his benefit. His UW coach, Steve Sarkisian, was an assistant for Carroll at USC, and the offense Price learned as a Husky is similar to that of the Seahawks. “That allows me to play fast out there,” he said.
And the Hawks have shown both a willingness to give undrafted free agents a chance, and are not militant about players who don’t fit the physical prototypes for their positions.
“I like to challenge myself,” Price said. “I know if I can move up (the depth chart) here I would be able to move up anywhere. We have tremendous competitors ... They know how to prepare and they have been teaching me. They’re very competitive spirits ... and I love being here.
“I know I’m way down there on the totem pole right now, but I’m willing to work myself up like I did throughout my whole playing career,” he said. “So, I appreciate the challenge.”
The language of the offense is a little different, and the defenders will be even more fierce than those who often harassed him throughout his college career.
For years, fans of the Huskies have watched a banged-up Price limp to the line to try to get UW a win. None of those people will question Price’s toughness or determination.
“I constantly told myself that all I need is a foot in the door and I’ll take care of the rest,” he said.
So, he’s comfortable and confident, and energized by the challenge.
All that needs to be said about his attitude was printed on the ball cap he wore when working out for NFL scouts on his pro day at UW: “Don’t doubt me.”