Of all the weird and wacky ways players wind up in the CFL, hearing about it from arguably the best quarterback in league history while learning to throw a knuckleball for a MLB Network reality show might be at the top. That's exactly what happened with Ryan Perrilloux, the former quarterback for LSU, Jacksonville State, the New York Giants and the UFL's Hartford Colonials, who told Stampeders.com's Bryce Forbes he was encouraged to try the CFL by the legendary Doug Flutie while they (along with three other former college quarterbacks) were competing on MLB Network's "The Next Knuckler." As Perrilloux told Forbes, the knuckleballing didn't work out so well, but the advice he got from Flutie was well worth it:
Unfortunately for both, they couldn’t quite lose enough of the spin on baseball for it to dance like a proper knuckleball. Thanks to television magic, Perrilloux admits it made him look a lot better than he really was.
“I threw a couple knuckleballs,” he said. “The show doesn’t do any justice to how many knuckleballs I did not throw,” he added quickly with a hearty laugh.
But during the filming, Perrilloux got to know Flutie, who advised the 26-year-old about the CFL.
“He told me he came here and that it’s a great league,” Perrilloux said. “He said he definitely had an awesome time here. He said he got better, grew as a player and as a person.”
In fact, Perrilloux is wearing No. 20 for the red and white, the same jersey Flutie made famous back in the early ’90s.
While his CFL origin story is unique, Perrilloux's talent suggests he may prove to be more than just a quirky footnote. After all, this is a guy who was once considered one of the top two quarterbacks nationally in the 2005 recruiting class (along with Mark Sanchez), a player who was named the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year, the U.S. Army National Prep Player of the Year and Louisiana’s Mr. Football in 2004. (Bizarrely enough, he played at East St. John High School in Reserve, Louisiana, where his coach was Larry Dauterive, who was Flutie's position coach with the B.C. Lions.)
Things didn't stay so rosy for Perrilloux, though. He enrolled at LSU behind JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn, redshirted for a year, backed up Russell in 2006, and spelled Flynn in some important games (including the SEC championship clash against Tennessee) en route to the 2007-08 national championship, but was involved in a series of off-field incidents (including an arrest over using his brother's ID to sneak onto a casino boat in 2007), was suspended indefinitely for an unspecified "violation of team rules" in February 2008 and was kicked off the LSU team that May.
From there, however, Perrilloux's story started to get better. He wound up at Division I-FCS Jacksonville State, where he convinced head coach Jack Crowe he was worth a shot thanks to his honesty about his struggles, and although he still wound up with a suspension during his tenure there for a one-time incident that didn't involve legal issues, his Jacksonville State tenure proved very successful on and off the field. He led the Gamecocks to back-to-back 8-3 seasons, and his numbers were very impressive. In 2008, he threw for 2318 yards and 19 touchdowns with a 63 per cent completion rating and 13 interceptions while running for 368 yards and seven touchdowns, and in 2009, he threw for 2350 yards and 23 touchdowns with just two interceptions (but a 58.5 per cent completion rating) while running for 443 yards and eight further touchdowns. Those performances speak well of a quarterback who can find success with both his arms and his legs, and one who might be an excellent fit for the CFL. His time at Jacksonville State also speaks well for his improved maturity, as in addition to gridiron success, he also persevered in the classroom and fulfilled a promise to the school's president that he would graduate.
Perrilloux was overlooked in the 2010 NFL draft, though, and his path hasn't been the smoothest since. He did well in the UFL that year and was on and off the roster of the NFL's Giants in 2011 and 2012, but then wound up with the Ultimate Indoor Football League's Florida Tarpons before going on the MLB show with Flutie. Even after that and even once the Stampeders signed him, Perrilloux wasn't available for the start of training camp thanks to passport issues. Those are sorted out now, though, and while he's not going to be starting in Calgary any time soon (the Stampeders have three impressive quarterbacks with CFL experience ahead of him in Drew Tate, Kevin Glenn and Bo Levi Mitchell), Perrilloux seems like someone who might just be an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on. As he told SportsNOLA.com's Rene Nadeau in 2011, he's learned a lot from his trials over the years and seems set to improve moving forward:
"You can show kids that if you keep God first, everything will fall into place. I talk to groups of kids. I give 'em my story. I tell them that adversity will come; life will throw you curve balls. Pray on it. You've got to know that you can overcome."
The latest twist in Perrilloux's life seems like a different baseball pitch, but his inability to throw the knuckleball might just work out for the best.