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Perry shines as student, earns scholarship to continue with football

NATCHEZ — Natchez High defensive back Joe Perry only played football for two seasons, and he wishes he started sooner.

Because of that, Perry made sure to earn an athletic scholarship to Hinds Community College in order to extend his football career.

But with a 4.08 GPA and an ACT score of 24, Perry could just as easily earned an academic scholarship as well.

“I just love the game and want to keep playing,” Perry said.

The idea of playing football came while Perry was running track, and once he started playing football, he said it was something he should have done a lot sooner.

“They told me I was pretty fast, and I needed to try out for the football team,” Perry said. “I started both my junior and senior year, and I wish I started playing in seventh grade, when you’re able to start playing football.”

Natchez High football coach Lance Reed said Perry just popped out of nowhere as a player.

“I had always seen him on campus, and I knew him as a good student, but I wasn’t clear on how good an athlete he was,” Reed said.

“I did know he had a good body, and we had a good idea of how good he was when he started running track.”

And Reed said Perry’s dedication is what allowed him to blossom in just two season’s worth of playing.

“When he made his decision to play football, I knew he’d be good,” Reed said. “He had both the athletic ability and effort level. He went hard at everything he did, and that impressed me.”

Playing the game and enjoying it contributed to that effort level, Perry said.

“I love it. It was one of the best experiences in my life,” Perry said. “That’s why I knew I had to show out, so I could get a scholarship and play for a few more years to make up for the years I missed out on.”

When Hinds Community College came calling, the opportunity for Perry was too good to pass up.

“They showed early interest and brought me over on an official visit,” Perry said. “I toured their facilities, met their teammates, and I liked it.”

One plus for Perry about Hinds is their pre-engineering major, he said.

“I want to major in civil engineering, so this way when I transfer to a four-year school, I’ll already have started,” he said.

“I’ve always liked the concept of building things and figuring out how things worked, so I figured I’d just do it.”

As much as he loves football, though, Perry said grades are his first priority.

“The No. 1 reason to play football in college is to get a free education so I can go on to have a good career,” he said.

And his academic achievements at Natchez High are nothing at which to scoff.

“He might be our valedictorian,” Reed said. “It’s a tough race. There are one or two in the class that it’s a big competition between as far as who will get it.”

Reed has the unique experience of both coaching and teaching Perry, and he said there’s little difference between his demeanor on the field and in the classroom.

“I’ve had the pleasure of teaching Joe in pre-calculus and trigonometry, and he’s just as good a student as he is an athlete,” Reed said.

“He’s genuinely aware and concerned with his future and accomplishments on and off the football field. He wants to succeed, and he will.”