When it was his turn to speak at the Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation’s seventh annual Kickoff Luncheon, Gabby Price talked about his two great loves: Mary, his wife of 41 years, and football.

Thursday was Gabby Price’s 41st wedding anniversary. It was a Tuesday night at 7 when Gabby and Mary said “I do,” he told the crowd at Thursday’s luncheon.

“I love her more than anything in the world, but I don’t know about Tuesday at 7,” Price joked.

Price said Mary swears the unique wedding time came because he had a game. What game, Price doesn’t recall, but it’s not surprising that football was a factor on that day, too.

Price spoke quickly and briefly. The enthusiasm was obvious. After a four-year absence, Price is once again the head football coach at Husson University. That’s not just good for Husson, it’s good for football across Maine.

“We’re excited. I think we have a nice staff here, and most of all, we have some outstanding kids,” Price said.

After years as head football coach at Bangor High School, Price made the move to college football seamlessly. Price was Husson’s coach when the school resurrected its football program a decade ago.

Price started from scratch and led the Eagles through the lean early years. In 2006, Husson went 6-4, its first winning season. In 2007, the Eagles were 6-3, improved a little more. In 2008, Husson was 7-3, and played St. John Fisher, a perennially strong team from Rochester, N.Y., in an ECAC Bowl, a game that allows northeastern teams on the fringe of the NCAA Division III tournament a reward for a strong season.

Then, frustrated with the athletic department administration at the time, Price retired. Now that he’s back, Price has no regrets.

“It was (the right decision) at the time. I haven’t been afraid of change,” Price said.

While Price was away, spending his Saturday’s watching the University of Maine or Maine Maritime Academy, Husson nose-dived. In the four seasons after the Eagles won seven games in 2008, the team won seven games, total. There was a 16-game losing streak that spanned parts of three seasons, finally ending last fall when the Eagles beat Anna Maria, 28-22.

That’s in the past, and Price is happy to leave it there. He missed coaching. That too, is obvious, from the smile he wore as he hobnobbed with his colleagues from Maine’s other college football programs.

“All I know is what’s going on now,” Price said. “(The players have) been terrific. They have great attitudes. They’ve worked really hard. I think we have some very good football players. Some very wonderful people more importantly.

“I think, sometimes you go away from something, that’s when it means the most to you.”

Price had 62 players take part in spring football activities. He expects 110 players when camp opens on the Aug 18. Sixty-eight of those players are from Maine. That’s well over half the roster, but to Price, that’s not enough. Husson’s previous success was built with Maine players, Price said, and future success will have the same foundation.

“We’d like to be 75 percent from Maine, at least 70 percent. Some of our Maine players have done phenomenal jobs,” Price said. “There’s a lot of good football players. There’s a lot of great coaching in Maine high school football. It’s important to the kids. It’s important to the towns.”

Two of the Eagles four captains this season, Josiah Hartley of Bangor and Ryan Stroud of Dover-Foxcroft, are from Maine. Among the players Price cited as potential big contributors this fall were Lawrence grad Devin Sherman, Mt. Blue’s Matt Archer and Farmingdale native Ryan Dorso.

Things are a little different now. The winner of Husson’s league, the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs. The Eagles open the season with a non-conference game on Sept. 7 at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y.

Price built the Eagles once. The foundation he and his assistants set a decade ago is still there. A little chipped, but it’s still there. Price will build the Eagles again.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
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