Mount Airy High School athletic director Donald Price died Friday afternoon, ending a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer that started when he was diagnosed with the condition in mid-December. He was 52 years old.
Price attended Monroe High School just outside of Charlotte and spent much of his youth with his sister serving as his lone guardian. He went to college at Appalachian State University and walked on to the Mountaineer football team as a long-snapper during his junior year. Price graduated from ASU in 1985.
After college, he moved to Italy to coach American football in Europe. That experience made Price realize he wanted to be a football coach for the rest of his life.
His stint in Europe lasted a few years before moving on to Lees-McRae College. His desire to work with kids continued to grow there, and it was an easy decision for Price to begin his high school coaching career at Mount Airy.
Coach Price arrived at Mount Airy in the summer of 1993. The school hired him in the Career and Technical Education Program and to serve as an assistant football coach.
“Donald is a stand-up guy and he truly got into the business of coaching and teaching for all of the right reasons,” Mount Airy principal Sandy George said. “He loves the kids.”
Price was in charge of the offensive line under three head coaches who all loved to run the football in David Diamont, Eddie Cobb and the present coach, Kelly Holder. A lot of Mount Airy’s success has hinged on Price’s ability to help the offense control the trenches, but his impact on Coach Holder stretched well beyond the gridiron.
“I could work for the next 50 years and I wouldn’t be able to pay him back for all that he’s done for me over the past 17 seasons,” Holder said. “Not just in coaching, but his loyalty to me and to the program. He’s been a best friend throughout that time.”
Price was successful with an old-school mentality. His boisterous and demanding personality on the football field brought the best out of his players, and the Bears won nine conference titles and a state championship in 2008 with Price on the coaching staff. He also coached the softball team for a brief stretch in the early 2000s.
Mount Airy named him the school’s athletic director in 2003, and Price diversified Mount Airy’s success in sports across a variety of programs. With Price at the helm, Mount Airy won 40 team conference championships, 38 individual state championships and 10 team state titles. Sports such as soccer, golf, tennis and swimming have seen upticks in success and interest across the community.
Price was inducted into the Greater Mount Airy Sports Hall of Fame this spring. The North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association named him the Athletic Director/Administrator of the year for the state on June 5.
In the ensuing hours after his death, current and former athletes from Mount Airy High School took to social media to express their gratitude for all of the lessons Coach Price bestowed upon them over the years.
“No one was more devoted and loved Mount Airy more than Coach Price. I will never forget him. RIP to a legend #granitestrong,” Cameron Pack posted to his twitter page on Friday. Pack graduated in 2016 from Mount Airy and played for the Bears football team under Coach Price.
Mount Airy rising senior Jackson Smith, a linebacker and quarterback for the Granite Bears, echoed Pack’s sentiments on his Facebook page Friday.
“To the man who taught me mental toughness, constructive criticism, and put the passion of football in my heart; thank you for not only making me the best football player I can be, but the best person I could be,” Smith said. “Your love for us as not only football players, but as family will be irreplaceable.”
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16