Bob Price is the owner and president of a construction company.
Is it any wonder then that Roanoke Catholic hired him to rebuild the Celtics’ football program?
Catholic had won just one varsity football game in the three seasons before Price took over the program in 2003.
Friday, the Celtics (10-1) will play for a second consecutive VIS Division IV championship when they visit Isle of Wight Academy for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
How has Price done it?
Just say he knows how to lay a proper foundation.
A Cave Spring graduate who was a senior football player in 1978 when the Knights reached the Northwest Region finals, Price earned a degree in Building Construction from Virginia Tech and joined his father’s Salem-based firm, R.L. Price Construction Inc., in 1983.
Price started from where else?
“He put me with the orneriest superintendent he could find,” Price said. “Great training from the ground up.”
Price now runs the company, but that’s just what he calls “my day job.”
On afternoons and Friday nights during the fall, Price is Roanoke Catholic’s head football coach.
And where were the Celtics in 2003?
Catholic was 0-10 in 2000 under head coach Paul Moyer, who resigned because of health reasons.
The Celtics went 0-9 and 1-8 in the next two seasons under Dennis Blanchard.
Price had been an assistant coach at Catholic under both men before the school’s administration hired him to restore the fortunes of a program that had won a VIS championship in 1994.
Catholic finished 4-5 in Price’s first year, losing to Isle of Wight in the first round of the VIS playoffs.
“He took over a program who thought every Friday we were just going to get our beatings and go home,” said longtime Catholic assistant Joe Sweeney. “How do you switch that mentality with the same group of kids to actually walk on the field and say, ‘We can win this game?’ ”
Few public school or private school head coaches in Virginia work fulltime outside the school system.
Almost every school would prefer to have a head coach inside the school building to monitor players’ grades and behavior as well as building bonds with the student body and faculty.
Moreover, juggling two jobs sometimes means dropping the ball with one of them.
Roanoke Catholic athletic director Matt Peck said Price’s fulltime job has never caused him to miss a football practice or be late for any team activity.
“Never, because he’s the owner,” Peck laughed. “That’s why it’s so tough to find coaches that aren’t employed here. If you’ve got a 9 to 5 [job], that really limits your ability to travel to away games, to practice every day.”
Sweeney, who has coached with Price from the outset, is the head coach’s daily link to the school. Sweeney has taught biology at Catholic for most of the past two decades with the exception of two years when he went to work for Price’s construction firm.
“I’ve got great people around me,” Price said simply. “In my day job with R.L. Price, I’ve got a great staff. They cover for me a lot. And I’ve got a great staff here at Roanoke Catholic.”
Several years ago Price decided to install the Delaware Wing-T offense, which he believed fit the athletes in the Celtics’ program.
“We were finding ourselves bouncing from scheme to scheme depending on the personnel,” he said. “We needed to get some continuity. Not being able to always have big guys, we needed something that would rely on timing and really, some intelligence.”
He asked a somewhat doubtful Sweeney to be the offensive coordinator.
“I asked him, ‘Are you sure you think I’m qualified to do it?’ ” Sweeney said. “He said, ‘I think you can do it. I want you do it.’ At the time, I did not think I was the best man for the job.”
Price has instilled the same belief in Catholic’s players, relying on the lessons he learned at Cave Spring, playing football for Charlie Hammes and wrestling for coach Otis Dowdy.
“I fall back on what my coaches taught me,” Price said. “I still hear Otis Dowdy. He did more as a coach for me than any other coach in making me mature and allowing me to grow.
“I attribute a lot of the success I’ve had in the construction industry to the opportunity to play sports and to play under great coaches.”
The Celtics have grown in other ways with Price on board.
Price will not disclose how much of his own money he has spent on the program, but the investment has been considerable.
“I can’t speak to actual numbers, but I’ve heard he often bought equipment that the school wasn’t able to buy,” Peck said. “He bought food for the kids.”
The Celtics play their home games at Vinyard Park in Vinton where they rent the facility. Several years ago Price bought a trailer and converted it into a makeshift locker room.
“He outfitted it with eight to 10 shower heads and built it up into a locker room because he felt away teams deserved a locker room when they come visit,” Peck said.
“We’re freezing out there in November cold at halftime, he goes and sits our team down in the end zone and we gut it out. He provides a nice facility that he built himself and funded himself for the away team. That’s the kind of guy he is.”
Peck said Price does receive a salary, however.
“We’ll call it gas money,” the AD said.
Price, who has coached all three of his sons at Catholic, has no timetable for hanging up the whistle.
“I’m happy to do it as long as I feel the kids are getting something out of it,” he said.
Last fall, Roanoke Catholic got its first state championship in 20 years with a 24-20 victory at Fuqua courtesy of a last-minute defensive stand and game-winning touchdown pass.
The same kids who wipe down locker room floors with towels on road trips bought into the idea that they might be good enough to win a state title.
The assistant coach who once did not believe he was worthy of designing an offense dialed up a game-winning play.
Standing on the sideline watching was Price, built like a cinder block and just as solid.
“How does he do it?” Sweeney echoed. “The kids want him to be proud of them. They want to work for him. They rally around that. I coach the same way the kids play. I do not want to let him down.
“The reward is if you play your best, you will win.”