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Gophers’ prized recruit Perich arrives in Dinkytown ready to rock

Move-in day on a college campus often is a rewarding but emotional time for parents as they say goodbye to a teenager who's about to live away from home for the first time.

Such was the case Wednesday for George and Danielle Perich, who made the two-hour drive from Esko, Minn., to Dinkytown. They were going through the rite of passage with their son, Koi, who reported to the University of Minnesota to begin his career with the Gophers football team.

While waiting for Koi to finish some football meetings before helping him move into his new digs, Danielle Perich was asked if she had shed any tears. "Not yet," she said, knowing that some might come later.

For Koi, emotions hit, too, and the main one was excitement, especially when he entered the apartment he'll share with three freshman teammates at the Radius, a short walk away from the Gophers football complex.

"This is dope!" he said. "I've got my own bathroom and everything. It's a good place to start."

Excited also can describe the mood of the Gophers coaching staff and fan base with Perich wearing maroon and gold.

The versatile, athletic playmaker excelled on offense, defense and special teams for Esko's Lincoln Secondary School and will play safety for the Gophers. The four-star recruit, who scored 27 touchdowns last season, was the top-ranked Minnesotan in the 2024 prep class, and he stayed true to his April 19, 2023, verbal commitment despite late pushes by the likes of Ohio State, USC and Florida State.

Less than a week before the Dec. 20 early signing date, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day visited the Periches in Esko to make his final pitch.

"It was really stressful at the end," Danielle Perich said. "I continue to be impressed with Koi. Every time he would go on a visit, he handled himself so well. That Sunday before signing day, I could tell it was weighing on him."

Added George Perich, "He kind of embraced it. It could be overwhelming at times. He liked it but wanted to be done at the same time."

A setback on the track

Koi Perich's spring has been packed with milestones. Final exams. Graduation last week, and a grad party scheduled for next week. One thing will be missing, though: He won't be able to compete in the state track and field meet because of a hamstring injury.

One of Perich's reasons to finish his senior season at Esko rather than enroll early at Minnesota, as nine members of the 2024 recruiting class did, was to pursue a state championship with his high school friends. That didn't happen in basketball, as Esko fell to Pequot Lakes in the Class 2A Section 7 title game. And now it won't happen in track and field after he aggravated a hamstring injury during the Section 7A meet last week.

"That was the only meet where I felt like I was 100 percent," said Perich, who won the 100 meters in 10.87 seconds, the top time in Class A this season, before reinjuring the hamstring in the 4x200 relay.

Perich's focus will turn to football as the Gophers ramp up with workouts before training camp starts in August. He was back on campus for the first time since watching a Gophers spring practice and recalled how impressed he was with the high-tempo pace at which Fleck has the team practice.

"It's intense,'' Perich said. "You've got to bring it. You've got to be prepared every single time. The one thing noticed [on recruiting visits] was the different practices. I went to Michigan, and they did things slower. Here, it's, 'Boom, boom, boom.'"

Athletic family stays close to home

George Perich was a standout cornerback, and Danielle Perich was a star basketball player and track and field athlete at Valley City (N.D.) State University in the late 1990s. The athletic family also includes Koi's older brother, Mason, who caught four touchdown passes as a freshman wide receiver at Minnesota State Mankato last year.

"We're thrilled that [Koi] is staying close to home," said Danielle, calculating the driving time to catch an 11 a.m. Gophers game and a 6 p.m. game at Mankato's Blakeslee Stadium. When comparing the Gophers and Mavericks schedules, the Periches could have up to four chances to see both sons' games on the same Saturday.

"We haven't mapped it all out yet," George said.

As he checked out his apartment, Koi spent some time reflecting on the path he's taken to get there. Through triumphs and setbacks on the field, to a rewarding yet stressful recruiting process, and now to the beginning of his next challenge, he's embraced the journey.

"It's been 2½ years coming," he said. "I'm ready to begin my college career."