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New Bears DT Brian Price turns tragedy into triumph

The TampBay Buccaneers drafted defensive tackle Brian Price second round 2010 NFL draft out UCLA. | Scott A. Miller~AP

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted defensive tackle Brian Price in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft out of UCLA. | Scott A. Miller~AP

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Updated: August 31, 2012 6:17AM

When he feels the pain, he leans on words.

From The Bible, from his favorite rappers and from his three late siblings.

“They always told me, ‘Pour a little liquor and keep on pushing,’ ” new Bears defensive tackle Brian Price said. “I can’t sit and mourn forever.”

Just 23, Price has endured overwhelming tragedy and calamity in his life: two older brothers killed in gang-related murders; two rare pelvic surgeries that would immobilize the average person for months; and a sister, whom he called his “biggest cheerleader,” killed in a hit-and-run accident in May.

Sometimes Price asks himself, “Why me?”

“But when you ask yourself that, it’s really just a blessing, and you have to find all the good in the bad,” Price said. “God puts you through what he knows you can bear.”

He has had setbacks, including a four-day hospitalization for physical and mental exhaustion about a month after his sister Bridget’s death, as well as a fight with a Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammate.

Yet he doesn’t pretend to be perfect, committing his joys and many pains to rap lyrics with a rawness that only experience can shape.

I’m my own man, put in my own work.

I’m tatted from my head to my toe, and I don’t need a shirt.

It’s like I’m dodging hard times, but I don’t need the hurt.

My young [brothers] still banging cause they need the turf. [Expletive], I won’t complain because it could be worse.

I’m riding around in this Benz, but it could be a hearse.

Embracing football

The image is still fresh in Frank Price’s mind: Brian, then 9, clutching a tear-soaked football upon learning that his 18-year-old brother, Eddie, was murdered near a bus stop.

“He became quiet, he drew pictures,” Frank said of Brian’s reaction.

But he was drawn to the sport that his father loved and played, and he showed a lot of potential at a young age. Then, five years later, Brian learned that another brother, 24-year-old Damon, was murdered by a friend in the same car.

Brian’s grades slipped.

But Bridget helped Brian cope with his grief, encouraging him to stay positive. They talked often, and agent Chuck Price (no relation) can’t recall a celebratory occasion occurring that didn’t include Bridget and her two sons.

“When the two older brothers were killed, Bridget really became his rock,” Chuck Price said.

Then Bridget died at 33.

“They had this bond, and when she got killed, I saw my son full of anger,” Frank Price said.

“It was so hard to watch him become this angry man because he’d never been that way before.”

Brian became paranoid and struggled to sleep, and his father couldn’t mask what he called the Buccaneers’ “lack of sensitivity and compassion” toward Brian after Bridget’s death.

“I don’t want to bash the Bucs, but I feel [new coach Greg Schiano] came into a situation where they’re trying to have a new culture, and I feel Brian was a victim of circumstance,” Frank said.

On Thursday, the Bucs traded Brian to the Bears for a seventh-round pick, a miniscule price for a young player selected in the second round of the 2010 draft.

Ain’t nobody help out, when the lights cut out.

Ain’t nobody give [expletive], but they got their hands out.

Life is a gamble, you know how it feels to roll the dice?

You so in debt to these streets, you got to pay with life.

[Expletive] probably feel the need to play with life, but this ain’t a story, it’s the life and times of Mr. Price.

His focus

Brian doesn’t have much time to grieve or lament for a simple reason: Bridget’s sons.

“I just think about how they feel. I was their age when my brother got killed,” Brian said. “I fully understand.

“They got no mom, and their dad’s not in their life. I keep them busy and full of positive stuff.”

Since Eric, 6, and Ja’Haun, 9, were born, Brian has been their primary father figure. He and his wife, Candice Davis Price, are adopting the boys. They arrived with Candice on Sunday at Olivet Nazarene University decked out in Bears apparel.

Candice missed making the U.S. Olympic team as a 100-meter hurdler. She was one-tenth of a second from making the finals at the Olympic Trials. When someone offered her sympathy, she said, “I wouldn’t want to miss all this.”

“[The boys are] my ambition. As long as they’re good, I’m good,” Brian said. “As long as I save their lives and teach them how to be men and keep them off the streets. I want to raise them to be better than me. That’s my goal.”

Chuck Price aimed to find his client the ideal spot for a fresh start. The Bears have a need at the position, they have excellent coaches who can develop Brian — most notably Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli — and they have strong veteran leadership.

“If you look at the one spot, Chicago was the star on the map,” Chuck said.

Brian said he isn’t fully healed from his pelvic procedures from a year ago, but he’s confident he can contribute and he’s eager to prove himself to the Bears. His first practice is Tuesday.

“I’m just real thankful for this opportunity. It’s a burning feeling,” Brian said of his desire to thank the Bears. “They’re giving me a chance and showing me so much love.

“They believe in me, and I ain’t even played for them yet.”

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