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Follow the Leaders: Mario Price, Davidson College

An insider's perspective on the 2016 NCAA and NFL Coaches Academy

By Mario Price as told to Hannah Meister

Mario Price was recently named the special teams coordinator and running backs coach at Davidson College. He was among 40 NCAA football coaches selected to attend the 2016 NCAA and NFL Coaches Academy on Feb. 19-21 in Tampa, Florida. In the past three seasons, Mario climbed the coaching ladder at the University of Louisiana at Monroe from a graduate assistant to the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator. He has previously coached at Division III Millsaps College and Division II Texas A&M University-Commerce. Price was an All-Big 12 Academic Team selection as a running back and special teams player at Baylor University.

Mario Price, assistant football coach at Davidson College, crafted his approach to being a coach and mentor at the 2016 NCAA and NFL Coaches Academy. HANNAH MEISTER / NCAA

I learned about the NCAA and NFL Coaches Academy when I first entered the Future Football Coaches Academy a few years back. This program piqued my interest then, but I wasn't eligible for this opportunity. After I finished Future Football Coaches Academy, I applied for this program every year. I'm grateful I got the opportunity to do it this year.

The speaker who stood out the most was Mike Sherman (former head coach at Texas A&M University, College Station, and with the Green Bay Packers) – just his ability to reach out to us as coaches. When you hear Offensive Chalk Talk, you think it's going to be more about the X's and O's, and it was so much more about being able to reach a player, the ability to be able to teach, not necessarily the schemes, but the ability to teach, show you care and have core values.

Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy spoke about leadership and commitment to the 60 participants at the academy. KYLE LEACH / NCAA

My expectations were to learn and to network. I knew there would be some great minds, whether they are football coaches or athletics directors. I expected to learn more about the profession and meet some people who are as eager to learn as I am. In 2013, I met James Franklin, the current head coach at Penn State, while attending FFCA. He said, "When you walk into a room and you see someone you don't know, go up to them and introduce yourself – you never know what you'll find out." Since that day, I have tried to take that approach in a situation like this where you have guys standing around just trying to soak up knowledge.

I met a ton of coaches here at the academy. I met a coach who’s at a big-time program that everybody would love to go coach with, and we sat down and talked. I met coaches in my recruiting area; I exchanged business cards and phone numbers. And I met a couple coaches in the Southern Conference, which I just joined. There are guys from all over that I built relationships with.

I think leadership development programs like this allow you to grow a holistic approach to being a coach and a mentor. As a coach in this stage of my career, I don’t realize the role of administration and how the two correlate, the coaching staff and the administration. I know it’s important to understand the dynamics in those relationships. I think that in this profession, football is simple; it's the underlying parts that are challenging.

Dick Tomey, a head football coach at three NCAA different schools, gave advice on how to take the next step in their careers. HANNAH MEISTER / NCAA

Dick Tomey (former head coach at the University of Hawaii, Manoa; University of Arizona; and San Jose State University) was talking about taking the next steps in your career. That's been huge for me as I'm continuing to grow professionally and learning more about the offensive side of the ball and special teams. I learned a few things from Mark Harlan (athletics director at the University of South Florida) and Charley Casserly (former NFL general manager) interview-wise. They talked about how you present yourself, confidence, looking people in the eyes, having a presence and bringing energy. I learned a lot about trying to progress, and I feel like I have learned a ton that will allow me to pursue my goals and hopefully be an offensive coordinator.

This opportunity is worth the time and worth the travel. Make sure you know the deadlines; I actually missed one year of applying to this academy because of deadlines. Look early, look often and make sure you put your best foot forward and apply because this is definitely worth it.