It's a bombshell no one wants to hear heading into the final games of their high school football career, but it was a bombshell indeed for Juneau-Douglas senior captain Jack Perkins on Wednesday.
Perkins' left knee was injured early in Saturday's senior-night showdown with Colony, and he believed it was just a sprain. But after an MRI Wednesday, a doctor told Perkins he had torn his ACL, and his stellar prep football career is over. Looking at surgery in a couple of weeks, up to a year of rehabilitation and a stall to the start of his college career, Perkins took it all in stride.
"I'm pretty disappointed, but I'm an easy-going guy," he said. "It doesn't faze me too much."
Don't expect Perkins, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker/fullback, to give up on his college football dreams anytime soon. He rarely stops thinking about the game, and would love nothing more than to put on the pads for another four years.
"I pretty much have been raised on football," he said. "When I'm not playing, I watch it. I like to pick out a player and watch them the whole game to see how they progress and how they do. I like to pick a linebacker and see how he plays, and if I would have done the same things on certain plays."
Perkins was thrust into the starting lineup on both the offensive and defensive lines as a sophomore before the state semifinal game against South Anchorage due to injuries.
"There's nothing bigger than playing in the state championship game," he said. "Everything is elevated. It's a whole lot of fun, and it's really cold up (in Anchorage) around state championship time. It's been the best experiences of my life by far.
"I was definitely bright-eyed. It was the most nervous I've ever been in my life."
Perkins went on to recover two fumbles in the Bears' 23-13 championship-game win over Palmer, setting the stage for an outstanding junior campaign. JDHS lost the state title game to Service, 22-14, but Perkins was named to the All-Tournament Team on defense, and was one of two Juneau-Douglas students named Players of the Game.
He also was named First Team All-State at both linebacker and offensive tackle, and was a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Crimson Bears interim head coach Rich Sjoroos said Perkins is a student of the game, and he has all the intangibles a coach could ever dream of.
"He's coachable and he's got all the physical tools that you need to be successful at the next level," he said. "I think when you combine all that together with his character and everything - that's what's changed a lot over the years is that colleges are looking for the intangibles, and he's got that. He's got that little something extra that colleges want to bring to their team."
Physically, Perkins can do just about anything on the football field. In seven games this year, he caught 17 passes for 392 yards and scored eight total touchdowns, also while dominating the field on the defensive side from the middle linebacker position. The Bears' defense has pitched four shutouts this year, and given up seven points or less in two other games.
One of the biggest challenges facing Perkins was where he plays - Alaska's remote capital city of Juneau.
"It's really hard to get your name out there," he said. "If you live down South, a coach could drive 10 minutes to go watch your game. Once we're up here, they can't really come to our games."
Perkins' mom, Laurie, has been helping him make a résumé and get game film out there, and coach Bill Chalmers has been writing letters of recommendation for him.
Perkins had several colleges showing interest, including Missouri, Idaho, Army, Southern Illinois, Columbia, Princeton and Montana State, though now it's up in the air who might stay involved.
Again, he took it allin stride.
"Now I can go to the college where I want to go to rather than having to go to the one that recruited me for football," he said.
He maintains a 3.6 GPA with a 24 on his ACT, so Perkins isn't intimidated by the course load at any school. This year, he is taking AP calculus and chemistry, and Perkins said he would like to major in engineering.
"My parents have always been on me for schoolwork," he chuckled. "I've always done well in school, and Columbia and Princeton offer the education I really want."
Perkins said he also has always liked the idea of going into the military like his father, Joe, hence the possibility of Army.
"My dad was in the military for 20 years, so I've always had the focus of maybe going there eventually one day," he said. "Army would be the best way to get into that by far."
Not too long ago, Perkins didn't envision himself as a college football player, but a trip to Boise for the National Underclassmen Combine in April, where he was named the Most Valuable Player, opening his eyes to the possibility.
"Before that, I really didn't think I was going to go to college to play football," he said of his performance, which forced college coaches to take notice. "I didn't know if I was good enough then, and what was to be expected. But I went down and got the overall MVP of the National Underclassmen Combine in Boise. I didn't expect to run as fast as I did, but I was really happy with the results of that camp."
Now, there's a long road ahead, but Perkins is up for the challenge.
"Right after my surgery, I'm going to start working out my upper body, and a couple weeks after, I'm going to start trying to do a little bit with my right leg," he said. "As soon as I can, I'll start working out both legs. I want to get back on it if I can, and somehow get back into college football."
It's a bombshell, indeed. But Perkins has exactly the intangibles it takes to work his way back, and he'll take it all in stride. Bet on it.
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