Perrilloux adjusting to small-college life

Published 10:39 am Wednesday, July 30, 2008

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Ryan Perrilloux is finally The Man, with all that connotes.

For instance, going to class, being on time and setting an example.

Throwing, scrambling and generally looking the part were never much of a problem for LSU’s past quarterback of the future. Booted from the defending national champions in May, Perrilloux is trying to repair his career and his reputation at Jacksonville State, a Football Championship Subdivision team tucked away in east Alabama.

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And to make sure he doesn’t repeat the mistakes, he readily fesses up to making them during three years in Baton Rouge.

“I let a great opportunity slip away at LSU,” Perrilloux told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “Everybody knows that, and I know it, too. But what I have to say is will I let that crush me as a player or will I look at that as adversity and use that to drive me and motivate me to do better?

“That’s what I’ve been doing since I’ve been here. I’ve been looking at the mistakes I made at LSU and trying not to make those same mistakes at Jacksonville State.”

It’s why he has frequently risen at 4:30 a.m. during the summer for a jam-packed schedule of workouts, classes and study halls. And why a player who was one of the nation’s most heralded recruits coming out of high school seems content with life absent national TV games, playing in front of maybe 15,000 fans instead of 90,000.

LSU coach Les Miles kicked Perrilloux off the team following a string of issues, including skipping classes, missing a team meeting and arriving late for conditioning workouts. Plus, he had been on the fringe of a counterfeiting investigation and was caught trying to use a false ID to get into a Baton Rouge casino.

If Miles’ decision caused any hard feelings from either side, it’s not apparent. Perrilloux, a Louisiana native, praises him as a great coach who “gave me every opportunity to do the right thing. I think everybody saw that.”

Miles says he wishes Perrilloux the best and hopes that he learns from the LSU experience.

The 6-foot-3, 222-pound junior also still talks regularly to a few of his LSU teammates, who sing his praises.

“He’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever been around,” Tigers defensive end Tyson Jackson said. “I think he’s a real good person. I grew up with him. We lived right around the corner from each other.”

Added center Brett Helms: “We’re going to miss that guy. Anybody with that much talent, we’re going to miss.”

Perrilloux’s talent was on display late last season and in flashes as Matt Flynn’s backup. He was MVP of the Southeastern Conference championship game in one of his two starts, passing for 243 yards and a touchdown.

Perrilloux hardly played in the Tigers’ win over Ohio State in the BCS championship game. It went downhill from there. His father died Feb. 7, and Perrilloux’s reliability continued to be an issue with the team.

Then came his second round of courtship by college teams. Perrilloux estimates that 60 teams from all NCAA divisions contacted him — many of whom he’d never heard of, including Jacksonville State.

Gamecocks coach Jack Crowe offered structure and a role as starter-designate. There were no scholarship quarterbacks on the roster after Crowe kicked last season’s starter, Cedric Johnson, off the team for violating team rules.

With Perrilloux’s signing, the Gamecocks were dubbed the Ohio Valley Conference favorites by league coaches and preseason magazines despite coming off a 6-5 season.

Jackson wouldn’t argue with that projection of Perrilloux’s impact in the former Division I-AA.

“He’s going to tear it apart,” the LSU defender said.

Crowe said all his quarterbacks are held to high standards of conduct, including Perrilloux. He said there was no hint of negativity or blaming others when he talked to the coveted transfer, and that attitude would have raised warning flags.

“To whom much is given, much is expected,” Crowe said. “And much was given. We gave him the throne.”

Perrilloux admits he missed “a lot of classes” at LSU, but said he’s still on track to graduate in a semester and a half. This summer, he said he has missed two.

Crowe said he believes Perrilloux has been more reliable since arriving. Being the No. 1 guy for the first time in college helps.

“It gives him an opportunity to get past the frustration he felt at LSU,” Crowe said. “He’s not a play-behind-you kind of guy. There’s some guys that just don’t handle not being the guy very well, and he’s one of them. And you know what? There’s a good side to that, too.”

Perrilloux has drawn positive reviews from Crowe and his new teammates so far. Receiver Anthony Johnson got a welcome sight his first day back on campus in early June: The new QB running stadium steps alone on a steamy afternoon.

Johnson said Perrilloux hasn’t taken a cocky attitude with his teammates.

“He was never like that with us,” he said. “His first thing was, ‘We’re a team. I’m just like all of you. I want to work as hard as you guys do and be part of the team.’ Not once did he show any kind of bigheadedness.”

Perrilloux is hoping to prove himself to fans and prospective NFL teams alike, on and off the field. Maybe even lead by example.

“I want to rally these guys around me and I want to rally on them,” he said. “I want them to take me to another level and I want to take them to another level.”