Above photo: Price Peden kneels in prayer before a UMHB soccer game
BELTON- Talk to Price Peden for five minutes, and it’s easy to see why he is revered by his teammates within the UMHB men’s soccer program. Why former UMHB head soccer coach Brad Bankhead described the forward as an “exact representation” of the ideal student-athlete at UMHB. Why the American Southwest Conference selected Peden as the recipient of the inaugural Man of the Year just three weeks ago, and the conference’s Community Service Athlete of the Year prior to that.
“He was pretty special,” UMHB head soccer coach Ben Allen said of Peden. “I really don’t know who else [the Man of the Year award] should have gone to. Talk about a servant leader, who loves his teammates, the university, and is willing to serve.”
That is precisely what is found in a conversation with native of Flower Mound, Texas. His selfless attitude radiates through each statement he makes. He rarely talks about himself, instead focusing more on those who put him in a position of success over the last four years at UMHB, and his faith in Christ, which he says led him to becoming a Crusader.
“All the credit and the glory goes to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Peden said early in his conversation with True To The Cru when asked about the Man of the Year award. “And also the people that he has orchestrated and ordained in my life during my time at UMHB.”
There are many who seek to become servant leaders. But few have taken on that calling like Peden did once he arrived in Belton. In fact, it was the draw to become a servant leader, both within and outside of the UMHB soccer program, that ultimately drew him to Bankhead’s program.
“I’d always wanted to play college soccer since I was a little kid,” Peden recalls. “Going through the recruiting process, you visit schools and coaches, and hear the same things; ‘We want to win championships’ and ‘We just want to win, win, win.’
“Then I met Coach Bankhead. I remember on my last official visit in January of my senior year, Coach had invited me to come up and play pickup soccer with the team. After my visit, I went to Coach Bankhead’s office. He asked where I was at in the recruiting process, and I told him I was trying to decide between a few options and definitely considering UMHB.”
But a few minutes later, Peden had no doubt about where God was calling him.
“Coach Bankhead then pulled out a bible,” Peden remembers, noting that each incoming freshman receives a bible with the UMHB athletics logo on it, similar to the one Bankhead held on this particular day. “He said, ‘You know Price, obviously we want you here because we know you can help us on the field. But I want you here as a spiritual leader as well on this team.’
“He said, ‘It’s cool that we get to give them these bibles, but some of the guys on the team don’t know how to read it, they don’t know how to use it, and they need a group of Godly men to come into the program and show them how to live out what’s written in scripture. As soon as Coach Bankhead said that, I felt this tug on my heart. It was a huge God moment.”
That “God-moment” preceded another for Peden that followed within that same year. Prior to UMHB’s season opener on August 31, an away victory over Puget Sound in Tyler, Bankhead asked Peden to lead the team in a pregame prayer. It was an honor he held until his final collegiate contest in November of this past year.
“That brought a whole new perspective,” Peden said, “on not feeling this sense of pressure. Obviously there are nerves, and you’re fighting for playing time, you want to impress your coaches. But at the same time, you have to recognize, my identity is not a soccer player, what position I play, or my GPA.
“I’m very thankful that Coach Bankhead asked me to pray before every game because I didn’t just see my teammates as my teammates, but as my brothers. It gave me the perspective of not seeing soccer as this high-pressure college athlete experience, but in reality it was an art of worship. It was a sanctuary where we could use our gifts and abilities. “
Peden did not just use his gift of service on the field during his time with the Cru, however. Balancing college academics while starting for the ASC regular season champions is a heavy commitment in itself. But he went above and beyond, leading in organizations at UMHB such as the FCA leadership team, the Easter Pageant, Big Event steering committee and Revival Steering Committee. Additionally, he served the Temple/Belton community through his work with local soccer camps, Temple Bible Church, Love For Christ Food Pantry, Lighthouse Mentoring Program, Champs Day and Feed My Sheep. His selflessness did not go unnoticed, as teammates and coaches have said, but Peden never thought of it as a way to ‘look good’ or potentially win the honors he received in June. There was a much deeper purpose to his service.
“You could list everything I was involved in, but it was because of great people that I was able to do those things,” Peden noted. “I was very fortunate to grow up in a Christian family, and my parents were heavily involved in church. I learned very quickly how to serve others around me. I don’t have to travel to a third-world country or do a mission trip in order to serve other people; I can serve where my feet are.”
He went deeper into his perspective on service, as the conversation with this reporter drifted into mention of the fact that so often, a lack of time is the reason given for not making full use of one’s gift of service. If anyone could make that excuse, it would Peden, who graduated with a degree in Finance in May as well. But he doesn’t.
“Some days you’re excited to work. Some days, you might not want to go into work at all. But when you say, ‘I’m serving the Lord’, there’s a joy that is fulfilled in your heart in that moment.
“And look at it this way. Let’s say if we choose not to serve someone that the Lord is pushing us to serve. We could miss the opportunity to be the living image of Jesus Christ that someone could see in their lifetime.”
Peden’s final season on the field was amongst the most successful in his time with the Cru. He played in 16 of the 17 games, as UMHB posted a 10-0 mark in conference play. It was certainly not a perfect year-the Crusaders were upset on their home pitch to rival Hardin-Simmons in the ASC Tournament-but Peden says the cohesiveness formed was something special.
“I truly believe the reason why this past season was such a success is because we were doing it for the Lord,” Peden said. “We did that by collectively coming together and having each other’s backs. Were we a perfect team? Absolutely not. There were some hard moments during the season. We lost to some great opponents, and obviously went out in the ASC Tournament a lot sooner than we wanted, but looking back on that season, I think we were closer than we’d ever been.”
The UMHB men’s soccer program has a motto that is echoed throughout everyone within the team, from coaches to players. That is the idea of growing “great husbands, fathers and bosses” through the sport. Peden no doubt will check all three boxes.
“The guys on the team knew that Price would have done anything for them at any point if they needed him to,” Allen added. “To have that example of someone with Christ’s heart who is willing to serve, and be there, and ask for nothing in return is pretty rare.”