2020 NFL Draft: Bryce Perkins’ path to prominence fueled by competitive nature

Bryce Perkins' path to prominence has been met with countless roadblocks and detours. After taking the ACC by storm last season, the rising star has even greater aspirations for his second act.

Bryce Perkins is one of the most exciting players in college football. I sat down with Perkins to talk about his path to becoming one of the most prominent stars in college football and a top prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Meet Bryce Perkins

Bryce Perkins attributes his competitive nature to growing up in the tight-knit, hardworking community of Chandler, Arizona.

“I think the city of Chandler has so much talent and athletes,” Perkins said. “Growing up playing basketball, running track, and playing football with those guys, it kind of pushed my competitive nature even higher than it was.”

Whether it was on the hardwood, the track or the gridiron, Bryce Perkins was pushed to his limits seemingly every day. The countless battles culminated in Perkins setting an Arizona state high school record for single-season completion percentage (74.6) as a senior, before ultimately leading Chandler High School to their first state championship since 1949.

The dual-threat quarterback was intent on committing to the University of Washington the previous spring, due in large part to his affinity for the city of Seattle and the bond he formed with Huskies’ tight end coach Jordan Paopao. A looming problem thwarted those intentions just days before he was expected to visit Washington’s campus, however.

Washington made it evident that they were only taking one quarterback, and they’d just landed four-star signal-caller Jake Browning.

After careful consideration, Perkins decided that Arizona State afforded him the best opportunity, and committed in April 2014. An added benefit of staying close to home was that he lived a mere thirty-minutes from Arizona State’s campus, and was able to work out at the facility while he was still in high school.

Arizona State

When he arrived at Arizona State the following summer, Perkins was given the redshirt designation. He described his freshman season as an “eye-opening” experience and reflected on the lessons he learned during his year as a spectator:

“Just how up and down the game goes,” Perkins acknowledged. “I think momentum shifts, plays, and schemes matter more so in college as opposed to high school. I was on the headset, too, so getting to hear coaches’ thought process through plays on each down and having them relay the plays to us so we could signal it, was something I really enjoyed.”

Bryce Perkins was faced with yet another setback the following summer — only this one appeared career-threatening.

Going into fall camp, Perkins was competing with Brady White and Manny Wilkins in a three-way quarterback battle for the vacant spot atop the depth chart. During the second week of camp, Perkins suffered a debilitating shot to the head that subsequently broke his neck.

“At first, they weren’t sure if I was going to play again,” Perkins reflected. “After awhile, they told me to stay in a brace, and see if it would heal by itself. That sidelined me for the whole season, which allowed me to grow and mature as a person and as a player, too, just with my responsibility with watching film and doing the things I should be doing to better myself if I were actually playing.”

With Perkins and White still on the mend the following spring, Arizona State welcomed another quarterback to the mix in former Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett. Now faced with an improbable climb to playing time and an eligibility window that was shrinking by the day, Perkins opted to test the rough waters of JUCO football, transferring to Arizona Western College.

JUCO season

In his first time playing football in over two years, Bryce Perkins endured an up and down year in his brief taste of JUCO football, throwing for 1,311 yards, 7 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in 10 appearances, while producing a 63.3 percent completion percentage. He didn’t even warrant any attention from Division I schools until late October. He had just two more years of eligibility to salvage his career.

After mulling over where he would play next, Perkins decided on transferring to the University of Virginia, citing both their offense and academic prestige as the perfect fit.

Taking over at Virginia

Consistent with his competitive nature, Perkins welcomed a quarterback battle when he got to Charlottesville. Contending with junior Lindell Stone and redshirt freshman Brennan Armstrong for quarterback supremacy during spring practices, it was the battle-tested Perkins who seized the opportunity and took the reigns in fall camp.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound dynamo took the ACC by storm last season, producing 2,680 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and 9 interceptions while adding 923 rushing yards and 9 scores to his offensive production. Bryce Perkins’ combined yardage of 3,603 all-purpose yards became a school record and was good for 21st in the nation. His stellar play was recognized with All-ACC honorable mention honors.

Though multiple Virginia receivers enjoyed career years thanks to Perkins’ lively right arm — it’s the quarterback’s legs that are the great equalizer. Perhaps Perkins’ most exceptional skill is his ability to improvise outside the pocket and extend plays when most of his peers would either take a sack or throw it away when the play breaks down.

For an encore, the senior quarterback vows to be even better in 2019, and while his team goals include beating Virginia Tech and winning the Coastal, his personal goals are posted on his bedroom mirror to serve as a daily reminder of the winding path he took to get to Charlottesville:

Thirty-two-oh-seven and twenty-eight.

As in, former Cavaliers quarterback Kurt Benkert‘s single-season record of 3,207 passing yards and Matt Schaub‘s record of 28 touchdowns.

Heisman hopeful

Three years ago, Bryce Perkins sustained a neck injury at Arizona State and feared he’d never play football again. In 2018, he bet on himself and joined a Power Five school despite his only college experience coming from a 10-game stint in JUCO. After scratching and clawing his way to prominence, the rising star enters his final campaign as a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate.

“When I step on the field against a defense, I really think that no one can stop me,” Perkins said. “That comes from everything I’ve come back from and growing up. When I step on the field, I’m like ‘OK, the game is going to be won or lost on me,’ and if I go out there, I know that there aren’t 11 guys who can beat me 1-on-1 in anything. My competitive nature and tenacious attitude is heightened.”

2020 NFL Draft outlook

Perkins might be the biggest sleeper in the 2020 NFL Draft. Mel Kiper currently ranks the Heisman hopeful fifth among senior quarterbacks in the 2020 class.

“I know my skill set can transfer. I need to work on certain things, like pocket presence, but I have it. I definitely improved my accuracy with the guys, being with them one more year. I need to show scouts that I can play from the pocket when I need to, I can win games with my arm.”

Perkins will have the opportunity to showcase his electrifying talents to the football world this season. After knowing all that he has overcome, no one should doubt the potential of Bryce Perkins.

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