The former No. 1 high school dual-threat quarterback recruit in the nation is sitting with his mom on the front porch of a little yellow house on Bluebird Street in LaPlace, La. When a nearby train passes its way south toward New Orleans, it sends the living room décor into a 15-second convulsion.
Ryan Perrilloux is about 30 pounds thinner than I remember him looking at LSU. "This is my mom's house," he tells me. "This is where I grew up, but I live in Alabama with my girlfriend and my two daughters now."
Perrilloux sits on a brown leather sofa in the living room. The room is a shrine. Everywhere you look, there are trophies and pictures of Perrilloux running and throwing and accepting awards. To the right of the sofa are the SEC Championship MVP Trophy and the Hall Trophy, given to the nation's most outstanding high school player. There are also plaques and pictures with references to Bible verses, including one Perrilloux says is the foundational verse for the household, Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,'" declares the Lord, "'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Once, it seemed to be a prophecy.
Because it was here, in this little yellow house on Bluebird Street, where Ryan Perrilloux, in only a few short years, went from a young boy to a player Rivals ranked as the No. 1 high school dual-threat quarterback recruit in the nation. And it is here, after he began to disappear, that he has returned. And now, this house is about the only place where Ryan Perrilloux — that Ryan Perrilloux, the one who everyone thought would be in the NFL by now, can still be seen.
* * *
Twenty-one years ago, when Perrilloux was 6, a gray van driven by Eric Rogers, Sr., the local youth baseball, basketball and football coach for St. John the Baptist Parish stopped in front of a group of kids playing football in the yard outside the little yellow house. Here, Rogers saw a young boy doing things with a football that caused him to wonder, "What if?"
"You want to play sports?" Rogers asked. "I'd love to, but I have to ask my mom," the young boy responded.
Everyone who saw him play saw someone special.
Perrilloux escorted Rogers inside to meet his mom, who thought playing organized sports might be a good outlet for her son. And this is how the eventual top high school quarterback in the nation began his life in football - with an unofficial recruiting visit. Perrilloux, whom Rogers described as having an "it" factor from the first time he saw him playing with his friends, would be the starting quarterback for every team he played for in the St. John the Baptist Parish youth leagues growing up. Everyone who saw him play saw someone special, and by the time he reached junior high, people who had never even seen him had heard of him, a boy with a limitless future that nothing —nothing — seemed able to stop.
A prank isn't supposed to turn out the way it did around 2:15 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2001. This is when Perrilloux, at age 14, devised what he thought was a clever little ruse after his older sister, Kidada, called to say she and her date were on their way home.
Pranks were commonplace between Perrilloux and his siblings, especially the kind that involved scaring each other half to death. When Kidada and her date drove up to the house, they noticed someone outside. Kidada ran out of the car, leaving her date behind, and banged on the front door of the house. Perrilloux, wearing a black leather jacket, dark denim jeans and a baseball cap, crept up to the car.
Perrilloux in the hospital after being shot. (The Perrilloux family)
His sister's date had a loaded 9 mm pistol.
No words were exchanged, no "Freeze!" No questions asked. Just the earsplitting sound of two shots firing from a gun. The first bullet missed.
The second one pierced Perrilloux's right side below his armpit, tore through both of his lungs, his liver and his upper diaphragm, and came out the other side. All he kept saying was "I'm out of breath," Perrilloux's mother, Bobbie, remembered. "He knew he got shot, but he didn't think he got hurt."
He was not only good, he was lucky. The doctor who worked on Perrilloux that night said the bullet came an inch from his heart — one inch and he wouldn't have made it.
This is where we learn Ryan Perrilloux, at age 14, took a bullet that spun its way in and out of his body, nearly killing him.
And he did not cry.
* * *
Larry Dauterive began serving as the head football coach at East St. John High School in March of 2002. At the top of his "To-do" list was to meet the boy who lived on Bluebird Street. By now, Perrilloux was not only a phenom, but one who had cheated death.
"Throw for me," Dauterive told the freshman. Perrilloux did not disappoint. According to Dauterive, he could throw a football 50 to 60 yards in the air sitting on his knees. The coach even checked Perrilloux's birth certificate to make sure he was as young as everyone said he was.
The coach and the phenom would be good for each other. Perrilloux eventually would break the Louisiana High School record for total yards of offense, 9,024 yards passing and 3,680 rushing and lead East St. John's to the playoffs as a senior. As a senior he won the 2004 Ken Hall Trophy, the high school Heisman, as the nation's most outstanding high school football player, and was named "Offensive Player of the Year" by USA Today and Louisiana's "Mr. Football." Entering his final year of school, Rivals.com attached five stars to his name and selected him the top dual-threat quarterback in the nation (Mark Sanchez was their no. 1 "pro-style" quarterback; most other services simply had Perrilloux and Sanchez in their top two of all quarterbacks).
The greatest coaching names in college football all came, one after the other, to Bluebird Street. Les Miles in 2005. (Getty Images)
The greatest coaching names in college football all came, one after the other, to Bluebird Street. Coaches like Nick Saban, Mack Brown, and Les Miles (once Saban skipped out of Baton Rouge to the NFL) looked into the eyes of Perrilloux and sold the potential of Heisman Trophies and national championships and seven-figure contracts — theirs first, of course, and his later, as long as he minded his p's and q's.
All the while, Dauterive, along with Perrilloux's mother and stepfather, Phil Breaux, were there to make sure he wasn't being manipulated by those solely interested in what Ryan Perrilloux, the athlete, could do for them. At least they tried to make sure.
In July 2004, the summer before his senior year, Perrilloux, he of the 4.5 40-time and 6'2, 210-pound frame and NFL arm, headlined the Elite 11 Quarterback Competition in Southern California. The Elite 11 is designed to showcase the talents of the top high school signal-callers in the country going into their senior seasons. Although history suggests that about half of the attendees will succeed as college quarterbacks, the young men selected are considered the best in the nation and can play football at nearly any college of their choosing.
Perrilloux called Dauterive from the camp to let him know he decided to commit to Texas to play for Mack Brown. "It's early," Dauterive said, playing devil's advocate. But Perrilloux said he was sure, and he wanted the process out of the way so he could focus on playing one last year of high school football.
Dauterive called Brown and delivered the good news. And this was good news for Brown, who had signed an Elite 11 quarterback in 2000 (Chance Mock) and 2002 (Vince Young), but with Young going into his redshirt sophomore season firmly entrenched as the Longhorns' starter for the next few years, was having trouble attracting another top-notch quarterback.
Generally, Elite 11's, like Perrilloux don't want to go to a school where they might have to wait a couple of years for their turn to play, and Perrilloux, who wanted to be the guy from Day One, was no different. But he was also realistic. In the worst-case scenario, he figured he would spend a year redshirting and another year backing up Young. He would still have three years to be the guy in Austin.
"Is it a solid commitment?" Dauterive remembered Brown asking.
"I think so, or I wouldn't have called you," he said.
* * *
Les Miles left Oklahoma State to become the head football coach for the LSU Tigers on Jan. 3, 2005. Miles replaced Nick Saban, who had accomplished more in five seasons at LSU (two SEC Championships and a national championship) than most good coaches accomplish in an entire career.
It is not easy replacing a coach already considered a legend in just five seasons by a fan base that once cheered so hard for their team that the sound registered as an earthquake on a campus seismograph, and Miles needed a quick win when he got to Baton Rouge. His first order of business, like Dauterive when he arrived at East St. John High School, was to visit Perrilloux at the little yellow house on Bluebird Street and try to change his mind.
Dauterive was there with Perrilloux and his mom when Miles and Jimbo Fisher, LSU's offensive coordinator at the time, spoke to Perrilloux about leaving his mark on college football in the state where his family and friends lived. They also sold him on the notion of developing his skill under a pro-style offense.
Miles sold Perrilloux on the notion that he could compete for the starting quarterback position from Day One.
Long, long ago, in the year 2005, before Chip Kelly, Colin Kaepernick, RGIII and Cam Newton entered the fray, "spread option" and "zone-read" and "read-option" were still four-letter words in the NFL. Those schemes, the kind that typically call for a quarterback to run more and risk getting his bell rung, were not yet considered viable in the NFL, where everything and everybody was bigger, stronger and faster. Texas, with Vince Young, ran a spread offense. Perrilloux believed he was destined for the NFL, and when Miles told him that running a pro-style offense at LSU was more likely to get him there, he believed.
But most importantly, unlike Brown or Saban, Miles sold Perrilloux on the notion that he could compete for the starting quarterback position from Day One. From the minute he first stepped on campus in Baton Rouge, there was a chance he could be The Guy.
JaMarcus Russell, LSU's incumbent quarterback, was coming off an inconsistent freshman campaign. Meanwhile, since Perrilloux had committed to Texas, Young had turned the corner, highlighting an 11-1 2004 season with an MVP performance in the Longhorns' win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. As long as Young was at Texas, he was going to be the quarterback.
It's easy to get caught up in absolutes on National Signing Day, which has become a holiday of sorts for college football junkies. There are winners and there are losers. The official decision of where the No. 1 high school quarterback recruit in the nation will attend college was a big deal, and on National Signing Day in 2005, Ryan Perrilloux sat in front of a media circus at a nationally televised press conference and made news. He switched his commitment from Texas to LSU.
Miles may have gone winless at Oklahoma State against Mack Brown's Longhorns, but in only one short month in Baton Rouge, he had stolen one of the nation's top quarterback recruits. According to college football's talking heads, that was a win for Miles, and a big one.
Scorned Texas fans had a collective aneurism; jubilant LSU fans had one, too, albeit for another reason. They saw a national championship — make that championships, plural. Little did Perrilloux know at the time, but this is the moment when he began to disappear completely.
There's a certain kind of confidence that comes when you're playing football in the front yard and a coach happens to be driving by and invites you to play for his team. And there's a confidence that comes from having a bullet run its way through your body and you live to tell about it. And then there's the kind of confidence that comes when you're named Mr. Football and USA Today Offensive Player of the Year; when you win the Hall Trophy as the nation's best high school football player and every football program wants you and every college football fan in the country knows your name before you've ever even played a down.
When people talked about the best quarterback in the nation anymore, they didn't often mention his name.
Ryan Perrilloux at 18 years old, having just signed to be the future of the LSU Tigers in front of television cameras, was supremely confident, and, unintentionally, sort of arrogant. At least it sounded that way.
When he was asked about coming in to compete with JaMarcus Russell for the starting position, he responded, "JaMarcus who?"
Perceived Red Flag.
Then Perrilloux was asked if he thought he could win a Heisman. "I definitely think I can," he answered. "My four years at LSU, I'll try to win four if I can."
In the newspapers, that became a headline that read, "Ryan Perrilloux says he'll win four Heismans at LSU."
Another Perceived Red Flag.
According to Perrilloux, soon after the press conference Miles told him, "We don't want you talking to the papers anymore. We just want you to relax until you get here."
So he did, and as JaMarcus Russell worked through his inconsistencies over the next two years and emerged as one of the top players in college football and became the first player selected in the 2007 NFL Draft, Perrilloux sat on the bench, a backup quarterback. He redshirted in 2005 and in 2006 was the third-string quarterback, an afterthought, behind both Russell and Matt Flynn. He wasn't completely invisible, but when people talked about the best quarterback in the nation anymore, they didn't often mention his name.
This is where Perrilloux started to learn the hard way that overconfidence and a lack of patience can lead to frustration. And frustration can lead you to do some things you'll later regret.
Third-string quarterbacks usually go unnoticed, but not when one was once the No. 1 quarterback prospect in America, and not when their behavior raises more red flags. In November of 2006, The New York Times reported that Perrilloux tried to purchase gasoline with a counterfeit $20 bill. Perrilloux later told Yahoo! Sports it was actually a friend who had tried to use the counterfeit bill to purchase candy. Whatever really took place, no charges were filed against Perrilloux, but he received six months of probation because he was at the scene. "Wrong place, wrong time," he recently said.
All those red flags began to weigh Perrilloux down. And when you're in the spotlight, as Perrilloux would concede years later, perception is as important as reality.
In May 2007, a few months before he expected to compete with Flynn to become the starter for the upcoming season, Perrilloux, now 20, got caught trying to use his older brother's ID to board a casino boat. "That was a terrible decision," he now admits. Another red flag. Coach Miles suspended Perrilloux, but after he was reinstated Flynn, a fifth-year senior, was named starting quarterback.
Now a redshirt sophomore, Perrilloux started the 2007 season as the backup, on a team that had legitimate national championship aspirations. On Sept. 15, he started for an injured Flynn against Middle Tennessee and in only two and half quarters of play, he completed 20 of 25 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 37 yards as LSU won, 44-0.
One week later, Perrilloux was back on the sidelines holding a clipboard. Early one morning in October, Perrilloux was at the Varsity, a local nightclub on campus, when a fight broke out. Again, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and again, no charges were filed against him. Regardless, it was another red flag, and Miles suspended him from LSU's upcoming game against Alabama.
Ryan Perrilloux was now well on his way to disappearing completely.
* * *
Perrilloux's one real shot, and, in retrospect, maybe his last shot to be the player everyone projected him to be when he signed with LSU, came on Dec. 1, 2007 in the SEC Championship against the Tennessee Volunteers.
With Flynn ruled out of the game with a shoulder injury, Miles put the ball in Perrilloux's hands, and he did not disappoint. Perrilloux went 20 for 30 for 243 yards against a Tennessee defense that included future All-Pro linebacker Jerod Mayo and future All-Pro safety Eric Berry. On one play, he deftly avoided pressure in the pocket and flicked a 48-yard strike to Brandon LaFell. On another he hummed a 27-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Byrd up the sideline between two defenders, neither one able to react in time to make a play.
For the first time, really, a national audience saw the kind of player Perrilloux could be, a quarterback with a quick release and an arm that could throw the ball like a bullet downfield, feet quick enough to elude the rush, enough speed to outrun linebackers and the strength to lower his shoulder and flatten defensive backs. CBS analyst Gary Danielson emphatically declared on national television what everyone watching was already thinking, "Watch out for this Ryan Perrilloux next year! Watch out college football, this guy's going to be spectacular!"
The Tigers won 21-14. Perrilloux was the game's MVP. And when No. 1 Missouri lost in the Big 12 Championship to Oklahoma and No. 2 West Virginia lost to a 4-7 Pittsburgh team, on the final weekend of the regular season, the Tigers jumped to No. 2 in the BCS standing and secured a spot in the National Championship Game against No. 1 Ohio State. It wouldn't have happened without Perrilloux, the now certain future of LSU Tiger football.
During the month of practice leading up to the BCS Championship, Perrilloux said Miles and Gary Crowton, who was in his first season as LSU's offensive coordinator, installed a 15-20 play spread package for Perrilloux, and Crowton told the press he expected Perrilloux to take about 10 snaps, perhaps even as many as 15. In the opening of FOX's BCS National Championship pregame show, as a split screen showed both Flynn and Perrilloux warming up, host Chris Rose referred to LSU as a "two-headed quarterback."
On Jan. 7, 2008 at the Superdome in New Orleans — a half hour southeast of the little yellow house on Bluebird Street — LSU beat Ohio State 38-24 in the BCS Championship game. The Tigers were national champions.
"He cried that night. I had never seen him cry like that before."
Perrilloux, the SEC Championship Game MVP a month earlier, played two snaps. Early in the second quarter, he pitched left to Keiland Williams on an option. And in the third quarter, he kept the ball and ran for 4 yards on another option. That was it. Two plays. "The promises that he would play," Perrilloux's mom said. "He played for like a second, and he cried that night. I had never seen him cry like that before."
This is where we learn Perrilloux, as a young teenager, can have a bullet run its way through his body, and he doesn't cry. But now as a young adult, he plays for "only a second" in a football game.
And he cries.
* * *
Perrilloux was disappearing, and fast. He now believes Miles misled him to convince him to choose LSU over Texas.
"Basically, what they're telling me is the quarterback situation is slim. JaMarcus struggled and you'll have a great opportunity to come in here and play." Perrilloux said. "I got in there, and it wasn't that. ‘Cause when I got here I never had an opportunity. I was on the scout team for two years. They didn't treat me like I was the No. 1 recruit in the country. They treated me like a guy they signed to see if he could play or not."
After the national championship game, Perrilloux began to, as he calls it, "act out." LSU used a point scale for student-athlete behavioral infractions similar to the way the DMV uses a point system to track careless drivers. Miss a class, one point. Miss a team meeting, another point. Collect enough points, and they kick you off the team.
Perrilloux missed a mandatory team meeting a few days after the BCS Championship game. One point. Then he missed a class. Another point. Then he missed another class and another. Point. Point.
There was a lot of other stuff going on in his life at the time. In February 2008, at the same time he was acting out, Perrilloux's biological father died. And in March, his first daughter was born two months premature, weighing 2.7 pounds. Two months later, she underwent surgery to remove fluid from her brain.
In April of 2008, LSU's student newspaper, the Daily Reveille, reported that a waiter at the Kona Grill claimed Perrilloux called him a racial slur, "Osama." Ryan denied the allegation. Then a report surfaced that Ryan had failed a drug test for an unidentified banned substance. Perrilloux denied it, but the points and red flags were adding up. Too many, in fact, for LSU to handle.
On May 2, 2008, Coach Miles held a press conference and announced that Ryan Perrilloux had been dismissed from the LSU football team.
"Ryan was given every opportunity to be a part of this football team," Miles said. "In the end, he didn't fulfill his obligation as an LSU student-athlete."
By now, the red flags had built up and Ryan Perrilloux had almost completely disappeared.
* * *
Jack Crowe is the kind of football coach people refer to as "a dying breed," one of those good ol' boy Southerners cut from the same mold as Bear Bryant. Honest and blunt to a fault, he also cares about people. He is the founder of Coach Safely, a program dedicated to raising awareness around youth sports injuries.
Jacksonville State doesn't land a former five-star recruit unless he's covered with red flags.
At the time of Perrilloux's dismissal, Crowe was the head football coach for Jacksonville State — a small FCS school located in Jacksonville, Ala. Jacksonville State doesn't land a former five-star recruit unless he's covered with red flags.
One of his assistants, who had contacts at LSU, suggested they consider giving Perrilloux a shot. "I jumped the guy for it," Crowe said.
Crowe didn't like red flags. He had just dismissed his starting quarterback for drug use and had no desire to replace a quarterback he kicked off his team with one who just got kicked off another. But his assistant said he didn't think Perrilloux's story was quite what the media said it was.
So Crowe called Coach Miles. Not to see if there was any reason why he shouldn't take Perrilloux, but to see if there was any reason why he should.
"I just got involved with a thug who had been on drugs, and I can't take another guy like that," Crowe told Miles. "Les said to me, ‘Well he's not a thug and he's not involved with drugs. He got caught up in some immature situations.'" Mack Brown also gave Perrilloux a good recommendation and a background check by the state police came back clean. Less than two weeks after he was dismissed from LSU, Crowe decided to give Perrilloux one more chance for people to see what he could do. He was the starting quarterback from Day One.
Driving a large SUV in a town that was filled with pickup trucks and sedans, Perrilloux was a target in a small town where the local police didn't much care for the football players. In less than two weeks, he got pulled over twice for going five miles over the speed limit. Once, according to Crowe, he was stopped because the officer wanted to see if that was really "Ryan Perrilloux." Crowe responded by taking Perrilloux's car away before the red flags started adding up. His quarterback didn't complain. About a month later, Perrilloux asked if he could have his car back so he could trade it in. Perrilloux wisely bought a car that Crowe said, "looked like 50 other cars in this town."
Crowe was getting through to his quarterback. And his quarterback did what he was supposed to do and, except for one curfew violation, stayed out of trouble.
As a senior, Perrilloux was named the 2009 Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award — the FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. He ranked first nationally in passing efficiency and set single-season school records in touchdowns and total offense. He would eventually earn his bachelor's degree in Sociology from Jacksonville State.
Perrilloux was finally starting to live up to the expectation that comes with being the No. 1 high school quarterback recruit in the nation, except nobody was paying attention.
Ryan Perrilloux had disappeared.
* * *
Right before his dismissal from LSU in 2008, Perrilloux said he had been rated as high as the No. 2 quarterback prospect for the 2009 NFL Draft, right up there with Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez. But by the time of the 2010 NFL Draft, according to Scout.com, he was listed as the 20th-best quarterback draft prospect. He was a sleeper, at best, but Perrilloux had heard that a team might draft him as early as the fourth Round. But Coach Crowe already knew Perrilloux wasn't going to be drafted.
"Ryan had a workout there in New York, and the guy who did the workout was a friend of mine," Crowe said. "Every team had a scout there. I asked him what kind of job he did. And he said, ‘We worked out Sam Bradford last week, and he's right there if not better.'"
"There's nobody that's going to draft him. Nobody wants to deal with the stigma."
Bradford won a Heisman Trophy for Oklahoma and would later become the No. 1 pick of the 2010 draft.
"I asked him where he (Perrilloux) was going to get drafted," Crowe continued. "And he said, ‘There's nobody that's going to draft him, Jack. Nobody wants to deal with the stigma.'"
The reason had nothing to do, really, with Perrilloux being kicked off the LSU football team. At least not directly. At the time, the NFL's image had been taking it on the chin with Pacman Jones making it rain at a Vegas strip club, Michael Vick torturing dogs and a growing number of players getting arrested for DUIs and brandishing guns in public places. In response to these kinds of improprieties, in 2007 NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell introduced a new NFL Personal Conduct Policy, part of his "Protect the Shield" campaign.
The last bullet point under "Standard of Conduct" in the Personal Conduct Policy stipulated, "Discipline may be imposed for conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL Clubs or NFL Players."
Perrilloux, with all his red flags, was deemed a threat to the shield, not worth the risk. Draft day came and went. Fourteen quarterbacks were selected. Sam Bradford. Tim Tebow. Even Colt McCoy, who followed Vince Young at Texas. No team called Ryan Perrilloux's name.
* * *
Now we learn how much Ryan Perrilloux, now invisible, really loves the game of football.
Perrilloux's goal has always been to play in the NFL. This is a blessing and a curse, the standard against which he has measured his life. In a perfect world, he would have showcased his ability for three years in college, won a national championship and a Heisman Trophy and entered the NFL draft as a junior.
This is why he looked at a situation in which Vince Young was the guy as a redshirt-sophomore and he looked at a situation in which JaMarcus Russell was coming off an inconsistent freshman season, and he adjusted accordingly. Elite 11's, the really elite ones like Ryan Perrilloux, don't like to wait their turn.
Dauterive is convinced LSU would have won another championship with Perrilloux as its starting quarterback. Crowe said bluntly, "The boy should have gone to Texas." He wonders what would have happened had Perrilloux not been in an environment where he kept finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
On occasion, Perrilloux thinks about this too. In retrospect, he admires how Mack Brown was honest with him about not being the "guy" from Day One. He talks about how Vince Young called him right after he signed with LSU to ask him, in so many words, if he had lost his mind. "That same year Texas won the national championship and Vince left for the NFL," Perrilloux said, meaning that a) A "spread offense" quarterback could be a top NFL draft pick, and b) After Young left, Perrilloux could have been the "guy" in Austin. Not from Day One, but pretty close to it.
And he thinks about LSU. Perrilloux thinks about being the next in line for a team coming off a BCS Championship and how both Russell and Flynn made it to the NFL, even if neither exactly thrived. He thinks about how he was one of the top quarterback draft prospects prior to his dismissal, and how "acting out" got him booted from LSU and scared all the NFL teams away.
"I'm still living my dream. I still have the mindset that I can make it."
Perrilloux looks through old photos in his childhood home. (Ryan Collins)
Sitting in the house he grew up in, Perrilloux leans back in his chair — one leg crossed over the other, his arms resting behind his head — as we discuss his rise and fall. At times, he's almost mechanical in his account, like he's talking about someone else. But then he leans forward as though he really wants me to hear this part. "That's the story of Ryan Perrilloux," he said. "You had it. You could have done it all. But, if I keep listening to people telling me what I could have been, then who am I now? Still playing football. I'm still living my dream. I still have the mindset that I can make it."
And with that, he struggles to be seen, to keep his name and face and arm visible to those who decide who gets a chance in the NFL and who doesn't — to reappear as the player with all the talent that made him the most sought out high school quarterback in America. Minus, of course, the poor decision-making off the field that as Crowe refers to it, got him "blackballed."
It has been a struggle. As an undrafted free agent in 2010, the Minnesota Vikings cut him during a rookie minicamp. Later that year he joined the Hartford Colonials of the now-defunct United Football League where he was coached by Chris Palmer, who was the quarterback coach for the Dallas Cowboys in 2006 when a once-undrafted rookie free agent from an FCS school named Tony Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe and eventually became a Pro Bowl quarterback. "We caught lightning in a bottle with Tony," Palmer said. "In Ryan, we saw that same thing. We saw another Tony Romo."
With the Colonials, Perrilloux split time with another quarterback, Josh McCown, the same Josh McCown who became an assistant high school football coach after playing with the Colonials and eventually signed with the Chicago Bears. Last year at age 34, McCown went 3-2 with 13 touchdowns and just one interception while filling in for an injured Jay Cutler.
The Hartford Colonials dissolved after Perrilloux's only season with the team, but in 2011, Perrilloux made it to the NFL, sort of, landing on the practice squad of the New York Giants. Although he never played and was never activated, the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that year and Perrilloux has the ring to prove it. According to Perrilloux, the Giants' quarterbacks coach at the time, Mike Sullivan, told him the two of them were going to do great things. But in 2012, New York let Perrilloux go.
"It bothered me a lot, when the Giants kept him up there those two years" Crowe said. "In fact one of their top scouts told me he had been exemplary. He said they let him go, and it was just a stigma that they didn't want to attach to their team."
Invisible again, and still looking for a way — some way, any way — to reappear.
In February 2013, Perrilloux was a contestant on the MLB Network's short-lived reality series "The Next Knuckler." Former Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield tried to teach former college quarterbacks how to throw a knuckleball and win an invitation to spring training. Perrilloux didn't make it.
Prior to the "The Next Knuckler," he had signed with the Florida Tarpons of the Ultimate Indoor Football League, but during the MLB Network show, he became friends with another contestant, one-time Heisman trophy winner Doug Flutie. Flutie, who had been coached by Dauterive in Canada, shared with Perrilloux his experience in the CFL. Perrilloux saw a path to the NFL through Canada, left the Tarpons and signed a contract with the Calgary Stampeders. But he arrived late to Calgary's training camp because of passport issues, and was stuck behind three other quarterbacks. The Stampeders released Perrilloux in the middle of the season.
But it is harder, every year, to find others who believe, who remember, who see him.
Yet still, he refuses to disappear. Tattooed across his abdomen are the words "Only the Strong Survive" to remind himself where he has been, where he wants to be, and what it takes to get there.
The red flags, he insists, are gone. He is, he is convinced, still the player of vast potential he was on Signing Day in 2005. But it is harder, every year, to find others who believe, who remember, who see him. He is running out of leagues.
On Jan. 24, the New Orleans VooDoo of the Arena Football League officially announced they signed Perrilloux for the 2014 season. Perrilloux points out that Kurt Warner went from stocking shelves at a grocery store to the AFL and then became a Super Bowl Quarterback and NFL MVP.
He sees hope in Warner's story, and he's still supremely confident.
This is where Ryan Perrilloux, now 27 years old, finally realizes patience is a virtue.
* * *
"Have you seen my highlights from Jacksonville State?" Perrilloux asks me, standing in the living room of the little yellow house on Bluebird Street.
If I'm being completely honest, I'd seen very little. I had seen more of Perrilloux in the 2007 SEC Championship, than I had of the two years he was at Jacksonville State. That is the Perrilloux I saw and remembered — one game and a world of potential.
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He pops in a DVD. It's the best of his college career broken down to a 10-minute résumé tape. Drake's "Forever" plays over the highlight reel. The lyrics demand redemption. There is Perrilloux in the SEC Championship game, flicking the 48-yard strike and zipping the 27-yard dart for a touchdown. I hear the CBS broadcasters foretelling two years of jubilation in Baton Rouge, joy delivered from the arm of Ryan Perrilloux.
Then I hear the train. The one running so close to the little yellow house on Bluebird Street that it rattles the trophies and the pictures and the Bible verses, and as it passes it drowns out the sound of the television. "This is what we live with," his mom laughs as she is sorting through pictures of Perrilloux's football past. "But we're so used to it. It's like it's a part of life."
The train passes, the noise dies down and there is Perrilloux still making plays on the television, except he's wearing Jacksonville State's red and white uniform now. I watch deep balls, intermediate throws and various feats of athletic improv as he turns 5-yard sacks into 20-yard gains. I see him lay out a defender while blocking for one of his teammates.
I keep thinking about what Danielson said and I keep imagining Perrilloux doing these things in LSU's purple and gold or Texas' burnt orange. I see him on Signing Day, the No. 1 high school quarterback recruit in the nation.
Ryan Perrilloux made his mistakes and is paying for them. His hope is those red flags that made him a threat to the NFL shield somehow disappear before his window of opportunity does. This is why Perrilloux jumps from the UFL to NFL practice squad to an ill-conceived reality show to the CFL and now the AFL. If it happened for Kurt the grocery store employee and Josh the assistant high school football coach, then it can happen to him. He tells me this a few times not so much for my sake, but more for the reassurance of his own.
Before I leave, I look at the shrine to Ryan Perrilloux again. This time I see an 8x10 photograph of one of his daughters. This time I see a picture of Perrilloux receiving his college diploma.
And I remember the Bible verse at the little yellow house on Bluebird Street, Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,'" declares the Lord, "'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Still a prophecy, perhaps, if only some could see it.