The last two centers to be drafted out of Ohio State, Pat Elflein and Corey Linsley, both made an immediate impact for their NFL teams in their rookie seasons.
Billy Price, who became the latest Ohio State center to be drafted when the Cincinnati Bengals selected him with the No. 21 overall pick in Thursday night’s first round of the 2018 NFL draft, looks to follow in their footsteps.
"My goal was to finish up my career at Ohio State and then transition to the NFL and just set the league on fire from Day 1," Price said in a conference call with Bengals reporters after being drafted. "For me, it’s that expectation to go and earn a starting job, compete from Day 1, to be that plug-and-play player at center, guard, whatever the team wants.
"At Cincinnati, this is going to be a great opportunity, and again, there’s a lot of pride … so I have high expectations for myself."
After being selected by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round (No. 161 overall) of the 2014 NFL draft, Linsley went on to start all 16 games for the Packers in his rookie season, and has since established among the NFL’s top centers, signing a three-year, $25.5 million contract extension with the Packers this offseason.
Elflein, meanwhile, started 14 games for the Minnesota Vikings in his rookie season last year – only not starting the other two games due to injury – after being selected in the third round (No. 70 overall) of the 2017 NFL draft.
Price, who started all 55 games of his four playing seasons at Ohio State, would seemingly have a leg up on both of them as a first-round pick. He is still recovering after suffering an incomplete tear of his left pectoral muscle while bench pressing at the NFL Scouting Combine, an injury that could keep him on the sidelines for two more months. But that injury didn’t end up hurting his draft stock on Thursday night, and he doesn’t expect it to affect his rookie season either, as he is on schedule to be fully cleared before the Bengals start training camp in July.
He says he has tried to go about his business the same way Elflein has, both at Ohio State and in his first year in the NFL, in hopes of continuing to replicate his former teammate’s success.
"Playing with him and kind of learning those traits and learning how to practice and then to be a college pro and then to transition out to being a professional, we’ve had a couple conversations recently, what to expect in this next transition and how to keep your body to make sure that you’re playing at the maximum highest level," Price said.
Price also trained in the months leading up to the NFL draft with LeCharles Bentley – another former Ohio State center who had immediate NFL success, starting 14 games in his rookie season after being selected by the New Orleans Saints in the second round of the 2002 NFL draft – and looks to him as a model for success as well.
"You look back at history, you look at guys like LeCharles Bentley, guys who really from Day 1, they set a tone to their play, and it’s just something that you try to imitate yourself in your play," Price said.
“My goal was to finish up my career at Ohio State and then transition to the NFL and just set the league on fire from Day 1.” – Billy Price on his hopes of making an immediate impact
Nick Mangold, the last Ohio State center to be a first-round pick (No. 29 overall, New York Jets, 2006) before Price duplicated the feat on Thursday, also made an immediate impact in his rookie NFL season, starting all 16 games.
Price appears set to have a clear shot at being the starting right off the bat for the Bengals, as their starting center of the last four years, Russell Bodine, left for the Buffalo Bills in free agency.
That said, Price knows the transition to playing in an NFL offense won’t be easy. But he believes his five years at Ohio State, which he capped by winning the Rimington Trophy (as Elflein and Bentley also previously did) as college football’s best center, prepared him well for the challenge.
"As far as NFL offenses vs. college, it’s significantly different," Price said. "But it’s going to be an adjustment period, it’s going to be something that I’ll be able to handle, take in fully and then we’ll be able to, Day 1 of training camp and Day 1 of preseason, we’ll be ready to go."
Price also believes being drafted by the Bengals – which the Austintown, Ohio native described as an "ideal" opportunity, and exactly what he was hoping would happen on Thursday night – will help make that transition easier, too.
"It was a very good fit for me," Price said of why he wanted to become a Bengal. "They have the same philosophy that we did at Ohio State, and the way that we play, and so it was an easy transition, I just felt like."