As a boy growing up in Everett, Mike Price always looked up to one sports figure in particular. And it was not a top professional, college or even high school athlete.
It was Walt Price, his father, who was also the head football coach at what was then called Everett Junior College.
“For me,” Mike Price said, “he was my hero and my idol.”
There are, he went on, a lot of great memories from growing up as a coach’s son. Mike Price was a ball boy for home games. He got to travel to many of the team’s road games. He would sit in on halftime and postgame speeches in the locker room.
“I can also remember watching game films on Sunday morning from a game that was played on Saturday night,” Price said, speaking by telephone from his home in El Paso, Texas. “We’d be in the living room watching game tapes when I was a little guy, and I can remember that just like it was yesterday.
“I’ve always said,” Price added with a laugh, “that I learned Xs and Os before I learned my ABCs.”
Snohomish County has a history of remarkable football coaches — fellows with names like Ennis, Erickson, Lambright and Gilbertson, among others — and Walt Price’s legacy belongs with all of them. And on Wednesday night, Everett Community College will honor him by formally renaming the school’s gymnasium, athletic offices and recreational facilities as the Walt Price Student Fitness Center.
Walt Price was born in Ogden, Utah, into a family of 11 children. He graduated from the Weber Academy, and then went on to the University of Idaho where he lettered in football, basketball and baseball.
After graduation he started in coaching, though he later entered the U.S. Army during World War II and reached the rank of lieutenant colonel. He returned to coaching after the war and was the head football coach at Grays Harbor College for two years before coming to Everett in 1948. He would coach the Trojans until 1964, but stayed on as athletic director while also teaching health and physical education until 1980, when he retired.
In the Walt Price era, football coaches tended to be “fire and brimstone” in their practice and game demeanors,” Mike Price said. “And my dad could get after guys, too. But I never remember him belittling anybody or anything like that. He always respected the kids. … He really enjoyed (coaching) and he had fun with them. He’d laugh if something funny happened and they’d all laugh together.”
Another thing about Walt Price that maybe put him ahead of certain peers, Mike Price said, “is that he always had many athletes of color on the team. His teams were always multi-race. He had a lot of African American kids and he had Polynesian kids, too.”
And when the coaching day was done, many of his players ended up at the Price home for a meal and perhaps even a bed for the night.
“They’d stay at our house if they had nowhere else to go,” Mike Price said. “It was almost like a boarding house at times. My dad really, really cared for his players, and the players really liked him and enjoyed playing for him.
“He was just a great dad, a great husband, a great role model and a great guy to be around.”
Walt Price, who died in 1985, and his wife Laura (deceased) had three children — Walt Jr. (deceased) of Snohomish, Geoff who lives today in Fresno, Calif., and Mike. Of the three boys, Mike was the only one to follow his dad into coaching, and it was a career that included 31 years as a head coach at Weber State, Washington State (where he was twice named Pac-10 Coach of the Year) and Texas El Paso.
Mike Price will be on hand Wednesday night to offer remarks about his father at an evening banquet to recognize this year’s class of inductees into the Everett CC Athletic Hall of Fame.
This honor “really means a lot to the Price family,” he said. “To the grandkids, the great grandkids, and obviously to Geoff and me. It means an awful lot to all of us, and I’m just elated and humbled that they chose to do this.”