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Growing up Perrilloux: Maturity comes the hard way for former LSU star

Ryan PerrillouxRyan Perrilloux

Ryan Perrilloux has experienced a lot a living during his 24 years. To say that he has had a checkered past would be a mild understatement. But his life seems to have taken a promising turn.

Recognized as the U.S. Army National Prep Player of the Year and the USA Today offensive player of the year in 2004, Perrilloux threw for 3,546 yards and ran for an additional 1,460 yards  as a five-star rated senior. He tallied 12,075 total yards for his career at East St. John High School (9,025 yards passing, 3,680 yards rushing, 155 touchdowns). In his final prep game against Evangel Christian, he had 495 yards of offense. Unstoppable was no joke as a description of the phenomenal teen talent.

“I love Ryan,” bellowed former East St. John head coach Larry Dauterive. “He’s a freak. He had 69 total touchdowns his senior year and averaged 26 points per game in basketball. This is my 46th year (in coaching). I coached some great ones. He’s the best athlete I’ve seen. You can never make a bad call with him. Down on the goal it’s not about plays, it’s about players.”

In fact, Dauterive coached Doug Flutie, an amazing-if-undersized athlete who won at every level of football.

Perrilloux was tabbed 2004 Mr. Football in Louisiana and the state Gatorade Player of the Year. He was invited to the Elite 11 QB camp and played in the U.S. Army All American Bowl.

To the next level...

Following his fabulous prep career, Ryan was proclaimed the top overall prospect in the country. Some recruiting experts called him the most dangerous offensive weapon in the nation, with a strong arm, a hair-trigger release and unbelievable accuracy to compliment top-notch mobility.

The hype and expectations were sky high when Perrilloux arrived as a freshman at LSU in 2005. The quarterback spot was then occupied by JaMarcus Russell, who remained the starter throughout 2005 and 2006 before leaving school early to become the top overall pick in the NFL Draft. 

Ryan then shared the position with Matt Flynn for the 2007 campaign, but off-the-field problems began to constantly interrupted his career in Tigertown.

Perrilloux led LSU to an SEC title game win in 2007.Perrilloux led LSU to an SEC title game win in 2007.

His final game at LSU was his best performance. On December 1, 2007 against Tennessee in the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome, he completed 20 out of 30 tosses for 243 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception as well as 32 yards rushing. He was voted the game MVP in a 21-14 LSU win that would propel the Tigers into the BCS Championship game six weeks later in the Superdome against Ohio State. 

“I was nervous, it was so loud,” Perrilloux recalled. “The stadium was split down the middle, half purple and gold, the other half orange."

But Ryan would settle down despite the enormity of the game. "I completed my first pass then had one incompletion. Then I hit 17 (completions) in a row.” 

The contest was extremely physical and took a toll on the young signal caller. “Tennessee was really hitting. That was the first time that my full body was sore the next day” 

Perrilloux connected with Demetrius Byrd for a 27-yard score early in the 3rd quarter. “(The Vols) were in a cover-two. I hit my good friend Demetrius Byrd. He had a good game (4 catches for 72 yards).” 

It was not until the 4th quarter that the Tigers took the lead for good on an 18-yard interception return by cornerback Jonathan Zenon. The Tigers went on to bigger-and-better things, but Ryan wasn't along for the ride much longer.

Perrilloux was permanently dismissed by Les Miles a few weeks after the BCS Championship. 

Pick a sport, any sport...

Success followed Ryan everywhere he traveled while growing up. He excelled in football, basketball and baseball.

On the diamond, he was a hard hitting shortstop and center fielder. Major league baseball scouts attended every East St. John game with hopes of landing the super athlete.

Perrilloux tried to emulate another athlete who found success at a very early age.

“I tried to model myself after Andruw Jones (16-year MLB veteran and 5-time All-Star). He was so smooth and had a lot of big hits,” Ryan said. “The Braves were my favorite team.”

The baseball scouts tried to convince him that he could that special kind of player. “A New York Mets scout told me ‘Kid, Carl Crawford was one of the best football players coming out of high school. He made it in baseball.’" 

Basketball was a sport Perrilloux loved, too. As an 11-year old playing on a Jefferson Parish All-Star team that included future Baylor star guard Demond “Tweedy” Carter, Ryan scored 50 of his team's 56 points in a game against an all-star contingent from St. Bernard. Yeah, he was that good.

As a junior at East St. John, he scored 39 points while going 9-for-9 in the 1st quarter of a contest against Parkview Baptist. During his senior campaign, he registered an ESPN Top Ten play of the day shot against rival East Ascension. “I had 30 points in the game. The clock was winding down. I launched a shot (roughly 70 feet from the hoop) with 1.8 seconds remaining.” The prayer found its mark. East St. John won 72-71 in front of a shocked, packed auditorium. 

Not surprisingly, former Florida State Heisman winner, Charlie Ward was his favorite football player. There were obvious similarities between Ward and Perrilloux. Ward won the 2003 Heisman Trophy, but he not only excelled on the gridiron, he went onto to play over a decade in the NBA. “I modeled my game after (Ward),” Ryan smiled. “He was a mobile QB that could run and throw the football.”

Ward was also a dangerous playmaker, much like Perrilloux, who flashed his exceptional skill his senior year in a game against Central LaFourche. He was 27 of 31 for 484 yards passing with four touchdown passes. He also had 16 carries for another 184 yards with four more scores. Yes, that's eight touchdowns in one game.

Growing (and pro-ing) up...

Unfortunately, it wasn't until his career ended at LSU that Ryan began to find himself as an individual and a complete player. He met 61-year old head coach Jack Crowe at Jacksonville State in 2008. Crowe was going into his 9th season as the Gamecocks head coach. He had also spent 3 seasons as head coach at Arkansas. Ryan was immediately eligible at the FCS school. 

Jack Crowe and Ryan PerrillouxJack Crowe and Ryan Perrilloux

Crowe was the offensive coordinator at Clemson, Baylor and Auburn and tutored some outstanding players including Bo Jackson during his 1985 Heisman season. He knew how to tap into Ryan’s enormous talent. “When I got to Jacksonville State, Coach Crowe told me ‘We’re going to re-invent you.’ We lived by a motto ‘on task, on time’. I became part of the family. There was always someone around giving me confidence, so I could be the person I needed to be,” explained Perrilloux.

There was familiarity at his new stop. He ran a pro style offense, similar to what he saw at LSU. But more importantly, Crowe forged a personal relationship with him. “(Crowe) was my mentor,” Perrilloux explained. “We met 2-3 times each week to talk about life, how to handle myself. He would say ‘You’re out leader, you’re our guy’. The more responsibility I had, the more on track I was. He let me express myself, to get things off my chest, just like Larry Dauterive. I love Coach Dauterive. He was the best thing that ever happened at East St. John. What he did off the field was more important for the players.” 

Perrilloux went onto lead Jacksonville State to an 8-3 record with 2,199 yards passing and 19 touchdowns, earning the Ohio Valley Conference newcomer of the year. The following season Ryan recorded an FCS best passer rating of 199.22. He was the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year.

Despite his impressive stats, Ryan sat through the 2010 NFL draft without hearing his name called. He was invited to the Minnesota Vikings camp but was released when Brett Favre arrived. He then signed with the Hartford Colonials of the UFL. There his life took another upward swing when he crossed paths with head coach Chris Palmer and veteran quarterback Josh McCown.

Palmer had served as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns (1999-2000) and tutored Tony Romo and Eli Manning during his days as an NFL offensive coordinator. He is currently the of the Tennessee Titans. McCown, an 8-year NFL veteran, was a 2002 3rd round pick of the Cardinals. 

“Coach Palmer told me ‘you’re a great talent. If you do things the right way, you’ll have a chance,’” Ryan said. “Everything (at Hartford) was run like a pro camp. I had to learn to be a pro coming out of college.”

His relationship with McCown put Ryan in a comfort zone. “I lived with Josh for 4 months. I learned a lot from him.” 

The atmosphere that Palmer created helped Perrilloux relax. “There was great chemistry. It was all family oriented, all because of Coach Palmer. I still keep in touch with some of the players, WR’s Shabeer McBride, Patrick Carter and Josh. We always talk and text. They’re always there for me.”

Palmer helped Ryan to understand what was required for him to take the next step. “(Palmer) is a great guy, a players’ coach. He would always tell me to just be myself and relax. He had a calming effect. He said ‘Go out play football and have fun.’ When I was in Minnesota, I was on edge. I felt like I had to do everything perfect. There was more pressure. Hartford made me feel more relaxed.”

Ryan learned what it takes to be a professional, to be more analytical at the quarterback position. “We had 3-4 meetings a day. It took me the first couple of weeks, but I realized that I needed to be in the film room more. It took me about a month to adjust.”

UFL quarterback Ryan PerrillouxUFL quarterback Ryan Perrilloux

As the 2010 UFL season developed, Perrilloux’s role grew. “I played in all 8 games. Josh played two series then I would play one. I played in the back-half of the season finale. Josh was pulled. I got in the flow.” 

On January 13, 2011, Ryan’s next big break came when he signed with the New York Giants. He heads to the Big Apple for training camp armed with a positive attitude, a truckload of talent and the maturity to handle to challenge. 

“I was in New York for a day-and-a-half visit. It’s a great atmosphere."

And Perrilloux's new mentor is ready to help him succeed. "I met Mike Sullivan (Giants' offensive coordinator) on a workout. Coach Sullivan has some tweaks in the offense (for Perrilloux). I can come in and learn the offense from Eliand Sage (Rosenfels). I can’t wait to get up there and do whatever it takes.” 

Larry Dauterive feels like his former prized talent is ready for his next challenge. “What a competitor. He took his lumps in the UFL. He’s got the ability," the old coach noted. "If he can learn from Eli for awhile, he’ll be fine. He’s got a lot of ground to make up, but if anybody can do it, he can. No doubt in my mind.” 

Ode to Purple and Gold...

Even though Ryan experienced some transgressions while at LSU, he is still a huge fan of the Tigers. He accepts full responsibility for his actions and decisions in Baton Rouge. 

“I’m still a Tiger at heart. I love LSU fans. I love their heart. I can remember hearing my name (from the crowd). I was 19 years old. If I could come back and do it differently I would.”

Still tapped into the talent at LSU, Ryan feels like the 2011 edition of the Tigers are primed for another BCS run. “They have all the tools in place, great staff, and lots of leadership. They have guys that have been through it. They know how to handle adversity.” 

When you look back at the top recruits from the 2005 recruiting class, you see names like Mark Sanchez, Colt McCoy, Beanie Wells, Ray Rice, DeSean Jackson, Ndamukong Suh and Jonathan Stewart. All are where Ryan aspires to be - established in the NFL. He sat on top of that impressive 2005 list and now feels the drive to join those players. 

“Seeing the success they’re having is a motivation to keep moving forward. I know that I’ll get there.”

Perrilloux understands that the path that he has traveled has made him stronger and wiser. Now he could prove to an inspiration to others. 

“In 10-15 years from now, I want my daughters to be doing well. Hopefully I would have played a long (NFL) career. Coaching may not be in my plans, but who knows? I want to be a business man. I want my health, my family’s healthy."

Hard work and faith are not foreign to the new, improved and humble Ryan Perrilloux.

"You can show kids that if you keep God first, everything will fall into place. I talk to groups of kids. I give 'em my story. I tell them that adversity will come; life will throw you curve balls. Pray on it. You’ve got to know that you can overcome.”

Video from LSU Athletics