JACKSBORO (WATE) – “I think we all need something,” Campbell County’s resident football field expert pauses. “That motivates us in life, anyway.”
For Jeff Price, that comes in something as easy as appreciation for a fine looking football field.
“He takes great care of it,” Cougars senior linebacker Hayden McIntosh says. “He spends a lot of time out here. Everyday you come out here, and he’ll be up here doing something with the tractor on the field.”
His care for the field, from mowing to aerating keeps him busy all season long. It’s been a staple of Campbell County’s year. But with wins piling up for the Cougars like that haven’t ever, his loud work comes with quiet satisfaction.
“They do it the right way. They’re hard workers,” Price says of the program’s coaches. “They put the time into it, they care about the kids, that’s what makes it easy for me to come up here.”
In 2010, twin brothers Justin and Matt Price, Jeff’s sons, were hired as Campbell County’s Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator, respectively, at the school they attended as high schoolers themselves.
“They were at a point in their program,” Justin says, “where they needed some energy in it and some passion.”
They brought both, and the results have come quick. In 2016, the Cougars finished the year 8-3, enjoying their third winning season in the past four years. Campbell County had just one such season from 1975-2010.
Though they were bounced by Ooltewah in the first round of the 5A State Playoffs in early November. It was their fourth playoff appearance in the six years since the Price’s took over the program, after just three playoff berths in program history prior to their hiring.
“It’s a beautiful feeling,” senior lineman Peyton Webb says, “having the winningest senior class. You have the foundation set.”
“We always say we control the things we can,” defensive coordinator Matt says, “and if we work hard, the other things will take care of themselves.”
The valuable lesson is one they learned from their father, Jeff.
“They want to develop kids, and all these other things,” Jeff says from the chair of his John Deere lawnmower. “And I figured if they wanted to do that, they ain’t got time to take care of the field.”
“We didn’t know what we we’re doing,” Matt admits with a laugh. “We kept calling him for advice. I think finally he got tired of fixing our mistakes, so I’ll just take over for it.”
What started as a part-time gig became a full-time affair for the retired Tennessee Valley Authority employee, and the Cougars have been reaping the rewards of his work ever since.
“Our kids have gotten used to seeing him, how hard he works for our program, and doesn’t get much in return,” Justin says. “My dad is just a blessing for us, and the impact he has on our program is just as big as anybody’s. When he comes out here everyday to give his all for our program, our kids see that, and it shows them just how important this program can be.”
Recently, talk has turned toward an artificial turf field being installed, and what would Jeff’s plan be then?
“I don’t know,” Jeff chuckles. “I’d have to find me another job to do or something I guess,”
“He’d have to move into the basement, start washing the jerseys for us or something,” Justin jokes.
“I’m sure he’d find some grass to mow somewhere.”
For now, Justin and Matt are just happy the somewhere is some place close to all of their hearts.