SHAQUILLE PERRY: Small-town back catching attention of Division I schools

WALNUT – Besides being blessed with tremendous athleticism, there’s a reason why Shaquille Perry is Walnut High’s best football player.
“He works hard. He shows up every day,” said Walnut football coach Timmy Moore. “He’s on time. I don’t remember the last time he missed a practice. He’s as steady as they come.”
Perry, who lifts weights every day, has been playing on the Walnut varsity squad since his eighth grade year. He started for the Wildcats after his final junior high game that season.
“Back then he played wide receiver and outside linebacker,” Moore said before last Monday’s practice. “He then moved to running back last year. He played wide receiver up to last year, and I think last year was his first year at tailback.”
In 2009, Perry had one of the best junior seasons around. He rushed 153 times for 1,197 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaged 108.8 rushing yards per game, had two touchdown catches out of his 12 receptions and scored on several fumble and kick/punt returns to finish with 21 touchdowns on the year.
“I believe last year he scored a touchdown in every manner that you can score a touchdown in a game,” Moore said of the 2009 Daily Journal All-Area first-team selection as an athlete.
Not to mention, he also punted for an average of 38.82 yards per punt, and handled kickoffs.
“He was a backup tailback/ starting receiver,” Moore added, “so he did get some action in the backfield, but most of it was at receiver before last year.”
This year, Walnut’s 6-foot-2, 213-pound standout has picked up where he left off. Through three games, Perry has rushed for 552 yards and 11 TDs.
“That’s the (offensive) line,” Perry said of his offensive production this season. “You gotta give it (credit) all to them for them to open up a hole for me to run through.”
A linebacker on defense, Perry rarely comes off the field during a game; he’s also on every special teams unit except for field goals and extra points.
“He makes plays on special teams and offensively and defensively for us,” Moore said.
Pure athleticism
For someone as athletic as Perry is, few are as humble. Perry runs a 4.53 40-yard dash, benches 325 pounds, was the leading scorer on Walnut’s varsity basketball team and finished second in the long jump at the 2010 Class 2A state meet with a leap of 22-10.
“It’s something that I see every day,” Moore, a veteran head coach, said of Perry’s athleticism, “and he never ceases to amaze me with some things that he can do out here athletically.
“And he then produces it again on the field on Friday, but you never get used to it.”
Perry flew out to the University of Notre Dame’s football camp after his junior season, and currently has scholarship offers from University of Memphis, Southern Miss and University of South Alabama.
“It was all right until I hurt my hamstring up there,” Perry said of his Notre Dame experience.
Moore said he believes more schools will show interest in his college football running back prospect if Perry qualifies academically during the next couple of months.
And Perry has family history to support his NCAA Division I potential. His cousin Michael Haddix played as a running back for Mississippi State from 1979 through 1982 and in the NFL for eight seasons with the Eagles and Packers.
After starring at Falkner High, his brother, Edward “Pig” Prather, played for Mississippi State as a safety from 1998 through 2001.
“No,” Perry said when asked if he thought he was better than his cousin and brother when they were in high school. “I got a lot more experience to go through.”
Even with his tremendous talent and the fact that he comes from a proud football heritage, Perry, who happens to be shy, views himself as “just a normal person around here.”
“We’ve had some good backs that have come through here,” Moore said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve had Jacob Sesma and Gavin Luster.
“Just as far as pure athletic ability and size and speed, too, I don’t know if I have coached anybody like Shaquille.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@djournal.com

Walnut football game up to Thursday night

- The Walnut at Middleton, Tenn., football game scheduled for Friday has been moved up one day to Thursday because of a scheduling conflict with officials.
The game will still be played at Middleton High School.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Last season, Walnut (3-0) defeated Middleton (0-2) 47-6 in Walnut.
Kedrick Storey/Southern Sentinel

John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal