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Despite stature, Pitt's Price measures up on field

| Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, 9:45 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Ejuan Price rushes Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Ejuan Price celebrates his third-quarter sack of Villanova quarterback Zach Bednarczyk on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, at Heinz Field.

Quick with a smile and pleasant conversation, defensive lineman Ejuan Price usually keeps a lid on his anger off the field, saving it for the running back, tight end or tackle that gets in his way.

But one of these days, someone is going to mention his height too often. Then look out.

“The way they talk about you, you'd think I was yay high,” said Price, stretching his hand on a level plane with his belt. “I'm not like a dwarf. I'm a nice-size guy.”

The topic of Price's height — Pitt lists him at 6-foot, 255 pounds — surfaced last week while the Panthers were preparing to meet Marshall on Saturday night at Heinz Field.

Marshall coach Doc Holliday compared Price to the Baltimore Ravens' Elvis Dumervil, another productive pass rusher who is built almost identically to Price at 5-11, 250.

“That's who he reminds me of,” Holliday said. “(Dumervil) was from Miami Jackson (High School), down in Miami, and, probably like (Price), was not heavily recruited because he was 5-11, 6-0.

“You turn the film on, and (Price) creates problems for you, not only in the pass game but the run game as well.”

Price will accept the comparison as a compliment, recognizing that Dumervil has 96 sacks in 10 NFL seasons.

“I guess you could say that that's a great comparison because that's a great player, so I'll take that as a compliment,” Price said.

Price also compares himself to another great pass rusher, Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (6-foot, 242).

“Just because of our stature,” Price said. “We have the same things working against us — taller tackles — so I definitely watch them to get some of their moves.”

Over the past 17 games, Price has developed a name for himself, collecting 17 sacks and All-ACC honors last season.

He opened this season as an early candidate for ACC Defensive Player of the Year, with 5 12 sacks in the first four games. Before Saturday's game, he was second in the nation in sacks per game (1.38), tackles for a loss (2.4) and forced fumbles (.75, total of three). He has 13 tackles overall, 10 of them unassisted, and seven quarterback hurries — by far the most on the team.

“To be 5-11, I think I did pretty good for myself,” he said.

Price said he has received congratulations from opposing coaches after every game this season.

“One of my favorite compliments is another coach telling me what a good player I am,” he said. “If it's coming from the other side, it must really mean something. That really resonates with me.”

At age 23, Price is in his sixth year at Pitt after injuries robbed him of the 2012 and '14 seasons. When Price was a freshman in 2011, then-Pitt defensive coordinator Keith Patterson compared him to one of his high school players in Oklahoma, former Steelers outside linebacker Jason Gildon. Price ended the 2011 season with four sacks, but he didn't play a full season again until last year.

With 22 career sacks, Price is 11th in school history, only a half-sack behind Brandon Lindsey and three shy of Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman, who is in seventh place with 25.

When asked whether he gets rest during the week to keep him fresh for games, Price said that's not coach Pat Narduzzi's style.

“His thing is working hard through the week,” Price said. “I believe you have to earn it in practice in order to make the plays in the game.”

He hides any eagerness for advancing to the NFL, focusing on this season while noting if he doesn't make plays in college, “(Pro scouts) are not watching for you, anyway.”

Price stays in good shape, adhering to the demands of Pitt dietician Rachel Baker, so he can retain his speed.

“Miss Rachel makes sure I'm not fat,” Price said. “I talk to her often. She keeps giving me tips because I'm a real picky eater. I'm a hard case for her, probably. But she makes sure I'm not eating pizza every night.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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