Pitt defensive end Ejuan Price started rolling his pant legs up last season, making his bottoms look more like cut-off bike shorts than the standard uniform.
Nobody really noticed.
He began this season with the same look.
Nobody really noticed.
But last Thursday night against Virginia Tech, people started to notice. With Virginia Tech-Pitt taking the primetime national spotlight, many more eyes got to see the Panthers and Price -- perhaps for the first time.
His pants soon became a talking point during the game and on social media, igniting a debate about whether shorter pants had a place in the game. The College GameDay crew took up the discussion on Saturday. It felt like Price had become the subject of a very special "Project Runway" episode.
Price heard the outcry and shrugged his shoulders. "I’ve been doing it for a long time, but I guess it was a slow day if they picked up on that," he said with a laugh in a phone interview.
There are a few things to get straight about Price and his short pants. When he first decided to pull them up, it had nothing to do with fashion. Price just wanted to feel looser.
"I just think football pants in general aren’t comfortable, especially when you wear them down to your knee," Price said. "It’s real tight, and there is real compression on your legs. If you can roll it up to a good point on your thighs, it allows your legs to feel less restricted. I don’t feel that squeeze and I feel like I can move better."
Price does have 35.5 tackles for loss and 20.5 sacks in his past 21 games, so perhaps his pants deserve some credit.
To get the look just right, he rolls them up and then tucks them underneath. To be clear, these are not cut-offs. Price is not defacing his uniform pants, and wants to be clear about that. But tucking and rolling does present a challenge. Price cannot get too high or too low, and sometimes they unroll, which requires extra work during the game.
"See, that’s the science to it," Price said. "That’s the hard part. I’m not going to lie. That’s the difficult part right there. When I first started doing it last year, it took me a couple games to figure out OK, 'How do I get it to stay? Or, 'What’s the right length to make it feel comfortable?' There definitely was some trial and error. There are a couple pants that didn’t make the cut."
As far as Price knows, he is not violating NCAA rules when it comes to uniforms. That is because he does use knee pads. According to the NCAA rule book, knee pads are required, and must be covered by pants. Though the rule states it is "strongly recommended that they cover the knees," there is no requirement that they do so.
Price said there have been times when the officiating crew has gone up to him pregame to make sure he does have knee pads on. When he shows them that he has them under his rolled up pants, they let him be.
"Some refs will joke around with me about how my pants look or how my legs look ... but I feel like as long as there’s a knee pad in there and the refs are OK with it, then I’m good to go, regardless of what anybody else might say," Price said.
There is one more alteration Price makes to his pants: he rips out the belt that is sewn into them, also for comfort. "The pants are already tight, anyway, so I don’t understand why they’ve got belts in them in the first place," he said.
But why stop with pants? Price also has his jersey hemmed so he does not have to tuck the long tails into his pants. And he uses a helmet with an old-school quarterback facemask on it, because that is what he has worn since high school.
"Even though everybody has switched to newer helmets, I’m the only guy on the team that’s still wearing that style of helmet," he said. "It’s outdated, but I’m comfortable with it and it’s something I’m going to continue to wear."
The uniform clearly works for him, though there are some who might disagree. So will he look like the same old Price on Saturday against Miami?
"Hopefully!" he said. "The refs might be looking for it now, but I’m going to try it and see what they say."