On Friday nights, when Coach Ron Price got home from New Albany’s football game, a sign and a letter from his wife, Amanda, would be taped to the back door. The notes became a ritual over the last four years, encouraging him through the ups and downs of his team’s season.
Today, a single sign still hangs on the door of the Price home. Amanda put it there after the Bulldogs’ loss to Cleveland in the playoffs last November. What was once a tool of encouragement for his football team is now one for his life, as Price has returned to New Albany High School following the shooting death of his wife at their home Dec. 5.
“I looked forward to that every Friday night, because if we had won, she’d tell me how excited she was and all the things we did well. If we had lost, it was a letter of encouragement; keep your head up, you’re doing things the right way, the kids are working hard, good things are going to come,” Price said of the weekly notes.
“I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to take that down. That was made by her, and I have to leave that up, because it reminds me how proud she was of our kids, and how proud she was of our football team.”
The first step moving forward for Price came on Jan. 2, as it was his first day back to work at the high school following his wife’s death. In the weeks leading up to that, he knew he had a choice to make, and what he decided was to live a life his wife would be proud of.
“Amanda would want nothing more than for me to give my best and to be the man that she knew I could be,” he said. “I just wanted to wake up on that day and do what I’ve challenged my kids to do for the last four years, and that’s give my best and do what’s necessary to get through hard times.”
Price’s support system includes many, and he spoke of his brother-in-law, Jay Cossey, who is also an assistant coach on his football staff. Cossey’s strength has encouraged Price through many difficult times in the last two months.
“Jay is the type of person that even through a difficult situation, he can make you smile. He demands every ounce of effort from our kids, and it’s easy for him to do that because he’s demanding every ounce of effort from himself,” Price said.
“The Lord knew what he was doing when he brought him here. We’ve leaned on each other, and he’s been, not only a brother-in-law, but also a brother to me. I’m so thankful that he’s here, and he knows the right words to say to encourage me, and he’s truly been a blessing through this whole thing,” he said. “Amanda would be so proud of him.”
A race for the cause
Two months ago, Price was not aware of Survival, Inc., a group that helps families who are victims of violent crimes. Now, it has become his lifeline, and his way of giving back is to donate the proceeds from the upcoming 5K race in March, named after Amanda, to the organization.
“They came to our family the very next day after this happened, and have been unbelievable throughout this entire situation,” he said. “They’ll call two to three times a week, send letters of encouragement, and there are groups that meet locally, so you can meet with others that are in the same situation you’re in.”
Even more than the notes and phone calls are the expenses Survival, Inc. helped with in the aftermath of Amanda’s death. From covering the funeral costs to providing counseling for the family, Price said the group has gone above and beyond to help his family, and now it is his time to give back to them.
“They have been so good to show that they care and they have helped in many ways,” Price said. “I want this race to be centered around Amanda, but I want this organization to benefit from it, because they’ve been so good to us. If the time comes where someone else needs assistance, I want the proceeds from this race to go so that they can be treated the way we have, and that’s with love. It’s just an unbelievable organization. It’s good to know people are like that.”
Price also praised how the New Albany community has come together, not only for the upcoming Amanda Price Memorial 5K, but for his family as a whole, lifting them in their darkest hours.
“From the day that it happened, to see the local law enforcement and the mayor, the people in charge, FBI, Mississippi Highway Patrol, it became personal to them, and you could tell that they wanted to see the person that did this caught,” he said.
“To know how hard they worked and how much they pushed themselves, you can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done. It meant so much to me and my family to see them out there doing everything they possibly could.”
Numerous texts, letters and phone calls have also come to the family, an act that Price is thankful for, even if he does not know the person he receives the message from.
“Some days when you feel like you can’t get up and go, you get a text or email or letter from a community member that you might not have ever met, but the Lord has sent all of these people to me when I’ve needed them,” he said. “Thank you is not enough to the way the community has supported us. I appreciate it so much. Our family appreciates it so much.”
“It’s been eight weeks, and it’s not any easier, but it’s been nice to be in a community where people love you.”
A call to serve
Only a few weeks after his wife’s death Price received a phone call from the preacher at his parents’ church in Corinth asking him to speak to the congregation about his experience. Price not only took that opportunity, but has also spoken at other churches, a calling he feels led to fulfill.
“I believe more than ever that the Lord is in control, and I just want to seek him, serve him and love him,” Price said. “He didn’t have to leave me here, but for some reason, he said it’s not my time. I just feel like, if he’s going to open the doors for me to share my story and that can help someone else, or Amanda’s life, the way she lived, if that could help people through their struggles and give them an answer to their problems, I don’t want to miss that opportunity. I know the will for my life is in His hands, and I’m seeking him more than I ever have.”
Price spoke at Green Valley Baptist Church in Pontotoc last Sunday, and is on the Sunday Super Bowl party program at Hickory Flat Baptist Church.
“It’d be easy to be angry and ask questions of why, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that Amanda’s in heaven, and I want to be with her again, one day, in heaven, and I want to take as many people as possible to be with us,” he said. “I’m just trusting in God right now. I will continue to be used by him, and hopefully at the end of the day, when we see the big picture, we can understand why all of this has happened.”
Price remembers what he said that night after New Albany lost to Cleveland in the playoffs:
“I made the comment several times that this is the worst feeling in the world for our season to end the way it did; to know how much work goes into a football season and to see it end so quickly.”
“I was wrong that night. That was not the worst feeling in the world. Little did I know this incident would happen later on down the road. Football is very important in my life, but this has shown me that you’d better appreciate what you have in your life.”
“Amanda and I had an outstanding marriage, and she let me be the football coach at New Albany High School. I want to encourage people to love their families and love their children and do not hesitate to tell someone you love them. That would be my challenge to everyone; to let someone know you care about them, let them know you love them and don’t let the little things affect you. Get out there and make a difference in people’s lives.”
As Price looks ahead, he has made a vow that he will stand by, serving the Lord and the New Albany community:
“I will give the city of New Albany and the kids nothing but the best.”