For a season that ended in such disappointment, the future looks golden for All-State senior linebacker and fullback Jack Perkins.
The 6-foot-1-inch Perkins has made a decision to walk on with the black and gold of the Missouri Tigers football team in Columbia, Mo., next fall.
"I wanted to go (Division I) to see if I can play there," he said. "I'm fine with working from the bottom up and I just want to get a shot at playing at the big time."
With Missouri being one of the strongest programs in the Big 12 Conference, a national powerhouse conference that has produced three NCAA football national champions since it commenced athletic competition in 1996, it's safe to say Perkins will have reached the big-time level once he arrives in Columbia.
"I can't wait to experience it - it will be awesome," he said. "Being able to play in front of 50,000 plus fans is a big draw, and I really want to experience something like that."
For Perkins, being able to play on the big stage at a perennially strong Division I is, in itself, incentive enough to beprepared.
"It's going to give me more motivation to work this off-season," said Perkins. "I'm probably going to go down there for summer school and to work out with the team."
He said working out with the team would be a huge step in what has been a long process. Perkins injured his knee during senior night last fall and has been rehabilitating it since he underwent successful surgery. He is looking forward to running and jumping - something he has not been able to do until recently.
"I've been working on my upper body and focusing on getting my upper body stronger, but in a couple of months I'll be starting a lot of speed training and agility - trying to get my speed back," he said. "That's also why I'm going there because they offer the best facilities for rehabbing my knee back to full strength.
"Since I blew out my knee, the offers kind of trickled away, so I feel blessed to be able to walk on and participate."
Perkins said he has been in contact with Tigers assistant coach Nick Otterbacher since roughly a week after his season-ending injury, a sign that the coaching staff at Mizzou had confidence in his ability to rehab and get back on the field.
"It shows that they have a lot of trust in me and I feel lucky to have it. I'm definitely not going to let them down," he said. "I'm going to work as hard as I possibly can and hopefully contribute to their team."
Juneau-Douglas coach Rich Sjoroos said he has no doubt what kind of player Mizzou is getting.
"They're getting one of the most well-rounded kids we've ever had come through the (JDHS) program in all aspects of his game, his leadership and his work ethic - the entire package. You just can't ask for more," he said. "I'm glad he's set his bar pretty high, but he's been doing that from day one. He's been a worker and he's just not going to let anything hold him back from his dreams."
Perkins will be the second JDHS football player in the past two years to play for a Division I school. Alofaifo Levale, a 2008 graduate of Juneau-Douglas, is currently an offensive lineman for the Weber State Wildcats in Utah.
Given the isolation of the state, Sjoroos said he hopes this exposure will be good for future high school football players in Alaska who want to play college football.
"These guys are paving the way," he said of Perkins and Levale. "They're going to open the door, hopefully, for other kids down the road to make it a little easier for them to get recognized and open up more opportunities for guys to go to college and play football."
While Perkins is excited to play football at the next level, he said he understands the real reason he is enrolling at the University of Missouri.
"I realized that football is just a pathway to getting an education, so I looked at the school in all," he said. "I liked the campus a lot and they offer engineering which is what I want to major in. My dad's an engineer and it's something I think I'd be good at."
Matthew Tynan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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