LINDALE -- Kendrick Price Jr. turned routine gains into explosive plays from the Eagles' summer 7-on-7 schedule through the last game of his high school career.

High school career. What a relief it was for the senior to phrase it that way.

Price was able to join linebacker Amere Cooper, kicking specialist Jordan Lawless, running back Ryan Taylor and defensive tackle Tyler Segrest on the podium at Lindale High School as the fifth player to know he's only about halfway done with football.

The 17-year-old receiver had zero football scholarship opportunities on Dec. 21. Wednesday, he signed with Northwestern State in favor of three other offers.

"This has been a long journey," Price said. "A really long journey. This time last year, I was thinking college football wasn't going to happen for me and thinking that this past season was going to be my last season. I was a junior and didn't play. It was really hard.

"I've been blessed to have a good senior season and a lot of support. A lot of things went my way. To see things pay off on signing day and signing with a great school, it's the ending to a great chapter of my life."

 

Lindale receiver Kendrick Price Jr. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm).

Price's senior highlight tape showed regular flashes of brilliance. At the same time, it showed a player that needs to be a smidge faster and a tad stronger for the college game.

Brilliance finally began to win out inside an 11-game individual season of 683 yards and five touchdowns within a very balanced offense.

Southern Arkansas, a Division II school, dropped the bombshell Dec. 22. Northwestern State, Texas A&M-Commerce and Central Arkansas shortly followed.

And here he is.

"I think, as far as a ceiling, I'm so young for my class," Price said. "Most of the junior class now is my age, if not older. It's been a disadvantage being younger than everyone else, but, at this point, I feel like it's kind of in my favor. I have a lot of room to grow. I have huge upside, I think. Just being in a college workout program, just developing, I think I have a lot of development to go. That's what I've been hearing from a lot of people.

"I've been growing for a while. I feel like physically that I'm going to develop, so, just mentally, being in college and learning the game is the thing. I pick up on stuff pretty good. I think that I have more to offer than just what I am now. I think I have very big upside."

Price will turn 18 this summer. He will already be enrolled in college.

The Northwestern State signee is very bright, an inherent advantage for someone in his position. He seemed to take a leadership role among a team that was upset with itself for a 3-7 campaign in 2014.

Lindale's 5-6 mark this past season wasn't a truly spectacular turnaround record wise, but it was a dramatically different team.

For starters, the Eagles qualified for the Class 5A Division II postseason as one of the state's smallest 5A schools by way of a three-team tiebreaker. Despite the fact four of five regular season losses came by less than a touchdown and three district defeats were in the final minute.

Marshall, a one-loss team, ended Lindale's season with a 21-17 win in the first round of the playoffs.

"They're getting an even better player than what they even know," Lindale head coach Mike Meador said. "Kendrick is young, 17 years old. They're getting a young man that I've watched mature. Because of his age, he's still going to continue to mature. I just think he's going to be an excellent player for them. Possibly a super star. All-conference. There's no telling what he could do. I think he'll continue to grow and continue to get better."

Lindale players, coaches and fans weren't the only ones happy for Price.

Chapel Hill kicking specialist Austyn Fendrick, an adversary of the Eagles the past four seasons, dropped by to support the receiver. Fendrick signed with Northwestern State during Chapel Hill's ceremony a few hours earlier.

"One thing that stood out to me, they told me their university is like a real family environment," Price said. "I felt that before they even said it. Austyn just signed today and he's here. He's at my signing. It's just a real homey environment."

Lindale running back Ryan Taylor (front row, center) celebrates with his immediate family after signing with Southeastern Oklahoma State.

 

Ryan Taylor Plays On

Lindale's solid season could have been completely different without the dependability of running back Ryan Taylor.

The senior pounded his way between the tackles for 1,354 yards and 16 touchdowns against tough defensive fronts in almost every game.

Taylor's reward is a one-way ticket to Southeastern Oklahoma State. He signed with the extremely East Texas-friendly Division II program Wednesday.

"Ryan is a story, I've told him, 'We'll be talking about Ryan Taylor for many years to come,'" Eagles head coach Mike Meador said. "Ryan is an incredible story. In junior high, he was on the B-team. Ninth grade, he was on the B-team. B-team lineman, to be honest. We moved him to running back where he played JV as a sophomore and then junior year he was a backup running back and linebacker.

"Then he got his opportunity in about Week 6. He's one of the hardest working kids I've ever been around. I really think the world of him. I told those coaches, 'You've got an all-conference running back and you've also got a captain on your football team.'"

The new Southeastern Oklahoma State roster member will join forces with former Van running back Matt Savis.

Taylor plans on majoring in occupational safety and health while also exploring professional football options at the end of his college career.

"They expect me to do big things," Taylor said. "They're an inside zone run team and they think I'm a pretty good power back. They think I can bulldoze my way through people and then go score."

Lindale linebacker Amere Cooper (left), kicking specialist Jordan Lawless (center) and defensive tackle Tyler Segrest (right) all faxed in letters to Tyler Junior College during National Signing Day.

 

Eagles Fly Together

Lindale linebacker Amere Cooper, kicking specialist Jordan Lawless and defensive tackle Tyler Segrest signed Wednesday with Tyler Junior College. They all have aspirations of joining four-year university teams in the future.

Lawless turned down a preferred walk-on invitation from Utah to remain in East Texas.

"I had offers from Kilgore College, Trinity Valley Community College and also Tyler Junior College," Lawless said. "I felt like TJC offered me the most of all those and that I fit in best there. We're going to be pretty successful this year."

Lawless, the ETSN.fm East Texas Football Super Team's first-team punter, averaged 40.4 yards per punt on 44 attempts. He also hit 13 of 16 field goals with a long of 48 yards.

Segrest and Cooper were parts of a strong Lindale defense. The unit never allowed more than 30 points and held three opponents to 20 or less points in 11 games.

"I think that's a plus for all of them," Lindale head coach Mike Meador said. "Sometimes, when you go off by yourself, it's a scary thing. Who you hang around with sometimes determines the success of your future. By these guys being together, hopefully they'll be accountable and encourage each other.

"The other thing I like about TJC is that it's right around the corner. We'll get to go see them. We'll get to stay in touch with them. It's going to be a great thing."

 

Mike Meador Said It

Regarding kicking specialist Jordan Lawless:

I think he's going to be super successful. I don't know if TJC will keep him very long because he's got a great opportunity to go somewhere really quickly. He's a kid that I think the world of. I've watched him grow up, his dad coaches for me and we go on trips together. He's a special young man. Great character. He's a kid, you never know, he might be kicking in the NFL someday.

 

Regarding linebacker Amere Cooper:

Amere is another one that this year really stepped up his game. He's got a motor that you can't coach. You can coach kids on technique, you can coach kids on a lot of things. That instinct, to be able to explode into somebody, that instinct to do what he did this year, they've got something special there. Whether they play him at defensive end or linebacker, either way, he has a chance to be really good.

 

Regarding defensive tackle Tyler Segrest:

Tyler is another one that just works hard. There's not anybody that doesn't like Tyler Segrest. He's just a likable guy. Then you look at him, he's a beast at 6-3 and 260 pounds. He bench presses the world, squats the world. I think he is going to be awesome. I really do. He did a great job for us and we're very excited for him. I think TJC got a good one in that.

Lindale's college signees are joined by the rest of the 2015 Eagles football team.