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Buffalo Bills rookie receiver Peerless Price grew up in a poor neighborhood in West Dayton, Ohio.

Many families were on public assistance. Jobs were scarce. Drugs were prevalent. It was the kind of place that breeds low self-esteem in young people.

Price, however, never had to look farther than his name to get the feeling he was something special.

"That's what I wanted him to know, that he was special," said his mother, Vinder Burress. "I picked the name out before he was born. . . . It was the name for a moving van company I had seen ads for. I liked the name, so I looked it up in the dictionary. It means without equal."

Price's name is the starting point in understanding what he is about. Like most mothers, Burress had great aspirations for her son when he was born. She was bold enough to put a special name on him, but she also was determined to show him how he might live up to it.

"When I was little, I don't know that it was my name that meant so much to me, but it was my mom who made me feel like I was special," Price said. "Any time I accomplished something, she rewarded me with something. I was always on the honor roll. I probably missed seven or eight days of school throughout my whole life. Any time she could reward me and my sister she would. That made me feel good and built my self-esteem up.

"When I started getting into sports, that's when my name meant something different to me," Price said. "People started writing about my name in high school and I realized this is something different. I started liking it and I appreciated that my mom gave it to me. It sticks out."

Peerless. The name defines Price's athletic career to this point. He probably had the greatest college football career of any player on the Bills, except for Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie.

"Magical," said University of Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer when asked to describe Price's career.

"He has a knack for making big plays," Fulmer said. "I think that's something that's God-given. But he also has the work ethic and the intelligence level to work himself into a position to make big plays. When we needed a play, he made it. Boy, what a great senior year he had."

Price's big plays led the Vols to an unexpected national championship last season. Tennessee fans will be reminiscing about them for decades to come:

Against Florida, he outleaped a Gators cornerback for a 29-yard, third-quarter touchdown, and the Vols scored a 20-17 overtime win over their arch rivals.

Against Alabama, he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score to break open a 35-18 Vols win.

Against Arkansas, the Vols fell behind 21-3, but Price caught a 36-yard TD pass at the end of the first half to swing the momentum and Tennessee won, 28-24.

In the SEC Championship game against Mississippi State, it was Price's 41-yard TD with 6:35 left that was the game-winner in a 24-14 decision.

In the national title game against Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl, Price caught passes of 76 and 79 yards. The latter was a TD pass with nine minutes left that broke open a 14-9 game and led the Vols to a 23-16 victory.

"I think I learned to make big plays at Tennessee," Price said. "As many big games as we had, week in and week out over four years, you kind of got used to it.

"Each of my first three years we started out in the top five in the rankings," Price said. "My senior year we started the season out at No. 10. Week in and week out, the opponent was trying to knock us off. You're the hunted. Every week we felt like we were playing for the national title. Under those pressure situations I learned to stay calm."

Price said his mother taught him he could excel from early on in life.

Price's father wasn't around a lot during his youth. Burress worked various jobs to support her five children. She worked at a school for the mentally handicapped, was a substitute teacher and worked at drugstores. She is a religious woman who took her children to church every Sunday.

"She taught us right from wrong and we followed it," Price said. "She expected us to do well in school. We weren't the type of kids who would go out on the streets. We were the type of kids who would go home, do our homework and then go out and play. Or as she would say, take your school clothes off, put your play clothes on, then go out and play.

"She gave us a lot of positive reinforcement," Price said. "If something was wrong we got punished for it but she didn't try to beat stuff into our head."

"Peerless was always a good athlete," Burress said. "He was walking when he was 7 months old. . . . And he was always a good student. He was an A student in grade school and got A's and B's in high school. I would give them a dollar for every A they got and 50 cents for every B. I felt with education you can go out and succeed in life. I worked two jobs to take care of them, but I didn't want them to have to do that."

Due to his close relationship with his mother, Price was very homesick when he got to Tennessee.

"The first week or two at Tennessee I think I cried every night," he said. "I called her four and five times a day."

Price's high school coach helped talk him into staying. And Price's mom helped keep him focused early in his college career.

"When Peerless came in, I don't think he necessarily had a bad attitude," Fulmer said, "but he just didn't know how. He didn't know how to work, which is the situation with a lot of freshmen. We had a couple conversations with her early in his career, and she was tremendously supportive of what we were trying to do. I think on her end, she kept him going early in his career here."

Price succeeded on the field right from the start, playing as a true freshman. In the classroom, he was an Academic All-Southeastern Conference pick as a sophomore and a junior.

The one major pitfall in his college career came when he shattered his right ankle in the spring game before his junior season. Doctors told him it would take 10 months to recover. He made it back on the field for the season opener in 4 1/2 months.

"Most people would have missed the entire season," Fulmer said. "He worked out rehabbing himself six or seven hours a day. We went out and bought an underwater treadmill and got everyone involved who could possibly get involved. And he had catches in the first game of his junior year. He made great plays for us his junior year."

All of his great plays are the reason the Bills think they got a steal when they drafted Price in the second round of April's draft. Price showed flashes of brilliance in the preseason. He looked good in catching three passes at Indianapolis.

"Peerless can play and he'll do nothing but get better as the year goes along," quarterback Doug Flutie said. "He proved that in the preseason and the first game. He's going to help us a lot throughout the year."

Price has been living up to his name his whole life. It seems only a matter of time before he does it in Buffalo.

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