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Remembering Eddie Price, Sr.: A New Orleans football superstar

Eddie Price Sr.Eddie Price Sr.

The city of New Orleans is deep in football tradition on both the prep and college level. The Crescent City has produced some outstanding talent. One of those players that stood out in his prime and left an indelible mark long after his passing is Eddie Price, Sr.

One of the early football superstars from the area, Price made it all the way to the NFL and excelled.

As a oreo junior, Eddie Price, Sr. teamed with soon to be brother-in-law, Ray Prats, Sr. (a senior at the time) on one of the all-time great teams produced in the city. The Warren Easton Eagles of the early 1940's were coached by the legendary Johnny Brechtel. The '42 team went undefeated, capturing the state prep title. The championship game was witnessed by 40,000 avid fans on a Saturday afternoon at Tulane Stadium.

The year prior (1941), the Easton Eagles were kepted from capturing the state crown by a Jesuit team led by an outstanding trio, Tony DiBartolo, Norman Hodgins Sr. and Ray Coates. “They beat us at Tulane Stadium 18-0 in front of 35,000 fans," Prats recalled. “I thought that it was the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

Little did anyone know on that fall afternoon in December that the following day would go down as one of the most devastating days in the history of this country. On December 7, 1941, the Pearl Harbor attack changed lives across America.

Both Prats and Price, called the 'Perfect P's' by Brechtel, would eventually join the Navy. Prats entered in 1943 while Price would follow a year later.

Had it not been for the war, the paths of these two might have been much different. Prats had a scholarship from head coach Frank Leahy at Notre Dame. Heisman winners Johnny Lujack and Leon Hart were a part of those teams that captured national titles in 1946,'47 and '49. Price was set to follow Prats to South Bend.

Neither would be a part of the Fightin' Irish. The lure of defending their country was too great.”I stayed at Notre Dame for 3-4 months (until Feb.'43) before joining the navy," Prats stated. Price would follow his lead in 1944; both would head to the Pacific.

Following their commitment to the service, both decided to attend Tulane. Price arrived in 1946 while Prats followed the next season. They played under the watchful eye of Green wave head coach Henry Frnka and carried their winning act from the prep ranks to college, Price donning jersey #45 while Prats wore #46.

A game that let everyone know the type of talent Frnka had on his Tulane squad was evidenced on September 27, 1947 in a match up with powerful Alabama at Tulane Stadium.

The Crimson Tide scored first, taking a 7-0 lead late in the 1st half, but Price returned the ensuing kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown. Two exchanges later, Green Wave quarterback Bennie Ellender (a future Tulane head coach) lofted a 50-yard spiral to Prats for a touchdown.

Alabama coached by Red Drew would go on to post an 8-2 record and earn a berth in the Sugar Bowl against Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne and the Texas Longhorns on January 1, 1948. But one of those losses came at the hands of the Wave.

“We scored 20 points in final 63 seconds of the 1st half," Prats recalled. Ray would later return an interception 40 yards for another score to fuel a 21-20 Tulane win.

But Eddie Price was the bellcow of that Tulane squad. The 5-foor-11, 190 pounder with 9.9 speed over 100 yards possessed all of the qualities you'd look for in a star player. “Eddie was a heckuva football player," Prats said. “He could run, block and tackle, but he had concrete hands, "he chuckled.

Price led the Green Wave to a 9-1 record in 1948 with a school-record 1,178 yards rushing. He also set the standard as the 1st Green Wave star to exceed 1,000 yards rushing in one season. Price gained at least 100 yards in each one of the 10 contests that season.

The 1948 season finale was a 46-0 shutout of LSU in Tiger Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend. Price became the very first Tulane player to rush for more than 200 yards in a game.

Price ran full bore every play that he was on the field. “Eddie was so fast that on a 31 trap he would run over the QB if he didn't turn quick enough or run over a pulling guard if he was in his way," Prats laughed.

Tulane, 1949 SEC Football ChampionsTulane, 1949 SEC Football Champions

In 1949, Eddie led the SEC champion Wave to a 7-2-1 mark with a season-high 238 rushing yards against Navy in a 21-21 tie. His Tulane-record 1,178 yards in '48 was not surpassed until Mewelde Moore  galloped for 1,421 yards in 2001.

A fabulous college career for Price resulted in his leaving Tulane as the NCAA's all-time leading rusher with 3,095 yards.

Price's success in college led him to the NFL where he was the 2nd round draft pick of New York Giants in 1950. As a rookie in the Big Apple, he led the Steve Owens-coached Giants in rushing with 703 yards and 4 touchdowns. New York finished the '50 campaign with a 10-2 record.

The 1951 season produced even better results for the New Orleans native, who rushed for 971 yards and 7 scores. In the season finale against the New York Yanks on a cold wintery December day, Price had a 70-yard run nullified due to offsides by an interior lineman. It was late in the contest on that snowy day and caused Price's attempt to reach 1,000 yards to fall short.

Over a half a century following his retirement, Eddie Price has left his mark on the Giants' record books. He led the team in rushing for 4 out of his 6 seasons despite sharing the backfield with outstanding teammates such as Pro Football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford. Price led the club in all-purpose yards twice and softened his self-proclaimed "concrete hands" enough to share team receiving honors in 1953 with much-heralded Kyle Rote. Those hands didn't fail him often since only fumbled 22 times throughout his NFL career.

Price's name still appears more often than any player in Giants history (three times) in the top 10 list of longest runs:

-4th with an 80-yard run vs. the Philadelphia Eagles on December 9, 1951

-8th thanks to a 75-yarder against the Cardinals on November 2, 1952

-10th via a 74-yard scamper vs. the Eagles on December 10, 1950

The New York Yankees were in their baseball heyday in the 1950's, the toast of the town with Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford in pinstripes. But Price was still a prominent sports presence in New York, recognized everywhere he went.

Eddie Price football card as a New York Giants starEddie Price football card as a New York Giants star

Price finished his days as a Giant with 3,964 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. He added 75 catches for 672 additional yards and 4 more scores. He averaged a stout 5.6 yards per carry as a rookie and played in 3 Pro Bowls.

Injuries took a bite out of Price's super talents. “After a pulled groin muscle in 1952 he was never quite the same," Prats explained. “He played with some outstanding teammates, Frank Gifford and Tom Landry. The Mara's (owners of the Giants) loved him and wanted him to remain with the team. He was one of the better athletes to ever come out of this city.”

Prats paused and revealed the moniker that Price was tagged with while at Warren Easton. “They called him Superman.”

Eddie Price, Sr. became a member of the Tulane Hall of Fame, the Greater New Orleans Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1982. A heart attack claimed him while at home on July 21, 1979 at age 53.

New Orleans claims Price as one of the best football players the area has ever produced.