Hitting the jackpot in Vegas: E.J. Perry now officially on NFL's radar

Feb. 6—E.J. Perry IV hit the jackpot. In Las Vegas.

And it wasn't blackjack, roulette or one-armed bandits.

We're talking football. Better yet, we're talking reputation with the big guys from the National Football League.

It was a great week in Sin City as Perry practiced five days in preparation for Thursday's East-West Shrine Bowl for college seniors trying to impress the NFL scouts.

Mind you, 80 percent of the rosters in Las Vegas were filled with talent from the big-time Div. 1 schools.

Not only did Perry earn a spot in the NFL Combine, which begins in Indianapolis on Feb. 28, after being a "bubble" consideration, but he also earned the East squad's "Practice Player of the Week."

The Brown University graduate impressed everyone when practices started on Saturday with his work ethic, athleticism and, well, the old Perry family trait, play-making.

If Perry flew home on Thursday, rather than hang around for the actual competition at the gorgeous Allegiant Stadium facility, it would have been a major, successful week.

He did his job, putting himself on the NFL map.

Then Thursday night happened.

And Perry had a performance of, well, a lifetime, live on the NFL Network, leading a comeback from deficits of 19-0 and 25-8 in the second half.

He completed 13 of 18 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. He also successfully ran for two 2-point conversions with the incredible comeback falling one point short.

With those numbers came the biggest honor of them all, the Offensive MVP trophy.

"It really was a lot of fun," said Perry. "It wasn't easy to start. We had a little trouble moving the ball. But I've learned a lot about being patient, that there are a lot of possessions. and then things started going our way."

Perry said the game and the addition to his trophy case were nice, but that was never a goal.

"The goal was to come here, learn from NFL coaches, learn from other talented players ... and get better," said Perry. "Honestly, that was the goal. and from that standpoint it was a huge success. It was amazing."

Learning a new playbook with new coaches was the biggest challenge. There were team meetings, group meetings with offensive coaches and individual meetings with the quarterbacks coach.

It was not easy.

"But that's what will happen when you show up for mini-camp. You have to learn an offense quickly," said Perry. "That wasn't easy, but what we did at Brown, with Coach (James) Perry, prepared me well for this."

Yup. That's E.J., still calling his uncle James, "Coach Perry." In fact, in one the last pieces I wrote about the duo, "Coach Perry" said he was looking forward to E.J. graduating so he could be an uncle again.

Apparently, not yet.

When Perry talked about the week of practice, he referred to his uncle ... I mean Coach Perry.

"Coach Perry always stresses practice ahead of games," said Perry. "Throwing five touchdown passes against the scout team isn't the goal. It's getting better every day, learning every day. That's how I approached this week."

Mission accomplished.

The cherry on top was an entourage of 25 family members and friends were there for the game, including "Coach Perry" from Brown.

He also got to reconnect with two of his former teammates at Boston College, who were on the East squad, as well as get close with several players from big-time programs like Miami, Nebraska and Virginia Tech.

"I made a few friends for a lifetime, from both teams," said Perry. "I expect to be running into a few of them down the road, maybe at The (NFL) Combine or wherever. It was definitely a week I'll never forget."

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.