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Virginia Tech football: Interim or not — this is an opportunity of a lifetime for J.C. Price

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Price was named interim coach this week after Justin Fuente’s departure.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Virginia Tech Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

J.C. Price came to Virginia Tech back in 1991 as a two-star tight end from Dunkirk, Maryland. Price, who was listed at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, would eventually move to the defensive side of the ball and become an All-American and future NFL draft pick at defensive tackle.

Now, Price is the interim head coach of Virginia Tech after the Hokies and Justin Fuente mutually agreed to part ways earlier in the week.

Price was hired earlier this year as a co-defensive line coach and defensive recruiting coordinator; he spent the previous nine seasons with the Marshall Thundering Herd as a defensive line coach and defensive coordinator.

Price met with the media on Thursday for his first press conference as (interim) head coach, and it was a must-watch.

The former Hokie All-American was humble, honest and pleasant, among other things. But don’t mistake Price’s press conference as he was “just glad to be there.” Yes, Price is glad to be in this position, even if it’s bittersweet due to his relationship with Fuente, but he is here to win.

“I want to give my best to these kids,” Price said Thursday. “These kids deserve to go out a winner. The seniors deserve to win. There’s a lot to play for.”

This game is a special one for Price. The 1995 team played a talented Miami team it had never beaten. Price finished with four sacks in the game and was a big reason the Hokies won and would have the best season in school history up to that point. Now, Price’s first game is against Miami.

Price was his usual humble self in discussing that game.

“There’s obviously one that comes to mind is the first time we beat them in ’95 my senior year,” Price said. I think I had a good game that day.”

Yes, coach, you had a great game.

Price realizes these two games could be his last two as a member of this coaching staff, something he does not take for granted.

“To have head coach after my name at Virginia Tech, I don’t think there’s a greater honor,” Price said.

Another quote that stood out on Thursday was a conversation he recalled he had with defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton — he, too, a former Hokie standout.

Six months ago, I told him (Hamilton) I’d crawl on my hands and knees to be the defensive line coach at Virginia Tech. And now, all of a sudden, I’m sitting in this chair. I told him, ‘You know what? I’ll still crawl on my hands and knees to work here.’ I just want to be here. Whatever capacity it is, great. I don’t care what it is. But if I’m not, I’m going to take that and attack that with a great attitude and great effort, like I do everything in my life, and I told the players ‘I don’t have bad days. I have good days, great days.’

Price wants to win the final two regular-season games and go to a bowl game because he loves Virginia Tech. He cares about these players. Yes, he wants to return to Blacksburg on the coaching staff next season under the next coach, but if that doesn’t happen, Price will still love and appreciate Virginia Tech.

If you’ve lost interest in what has felt like a lost season, I encourage you to watch on Saturday night. Watch for J.C. Price. Watch for Tre Turner. Do you want to talk about dedication and being a superior teammate? That’s Turner. He could’ve quit and got ready for the Senior Bowl when he was injured. Nope. That’s not Turner. He has an injury where flying is not permitted right now, so a pair of Virginia Tech staffers drove Turner all the way to South Florida so he could play on Saturday.

Price and Turner aren’t the only great stories on this team. But they are the biggest stories.

Here’s hoping for a massive win for Price on Saturday night in Miami Gardens. Forget the coaching search for a day and root for these young men and a coach who has waited his entire life for this opportunity.