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Joshua Perry is ready to make a name for himself in the NFL

After a four-year career at Ohio State, the linebacker is looking to make an impact in the pros -- and find a new barber.

Joshua Perry sounded mature beyond his years as he explained what he wants football fans to understand about him as a person.

"I'm pretty much a simple guy chasing a dream, trying to do the right thing along the way," Perry said.

The linebacker out of Ohio State shared the field with some of the biggest names in the 2016 NFL Draft. He may not have the star power of Joey Bosa or the name recognition of Ezekiel Elliott, but Perry was an integral member of the Buckeyes for four years.

In Ohio State's locker room, Perry was a captain and a leader by example. He earned recognition as a finalist for the prestigious Lott IMPACT Trophy, which recognizes outstanding character and athletic performance. Perry was also a finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy, which is awarded to a player with a record of exemplary community service.

It's a disservice to Perry, however, to gloss over the fact that he's also a force to be reckoned with on the football field. He's a thumper, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors following a 2015 season in which he racked up 105 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

Perry's focus now is translating that success on and off the field to the NFL.

Making an impact with his new team is his first priority

The move to the NFL is a big transition, but Perry's staying focused on his goal.

"I've got to really make a name for myself in the NFL and with my team," Perry said. "So a lot of that's just going to be focusing on my production, what I do as a player, making sure that I have everything solidified there, because that's going to be my job. I've got to take care of that, number one."

Second on his list is finding a good barber

At the NFL Combine, Perry told reporters why he had shaved his own head.

"I don't want to have a really awful haircut," Perry said. "So I didn't want to have to wait like eight weeks to get back to Columbus to get a fresh cut, so I just went ahead and shaved it all off."

Heading to a new city to start a NFL career must be overwhelming in many ways, not the least of which is the challenge of finding a quality barber.

Perry is thoughtful about his approach to everything, including his barber dilemma.

"At a certain point, you've got to develop that relationship and that trust," Perry said. "The best thing to do is kind of scope out who on the team has the best haircut and then see who they go to. So I'll probably end up doing something like that. When I start going to that barber, I'll keep it simple at first. I won't ask him to do anything crazy, but sometimes I like to switch it up a little bit, so I've just got to kind of play it by ear."

Perry looks to his brother for inspiration

Jahred Perry is the youngest of the three Perry brothers. Jahred has Asperger's syndrome, which is part of the autism spectrum. People with Asperger's are usually characterized as high-functioning, but they still face significant struggles, from academic difficulties to challenges with interpersonal relationships.

What makes things more difficult for those with Asperger's in particular is that they can often easily pass as "normal," which makes it difficult for others to understand, and be empathetic to, their experiences.

Joshua is committed to being an advocate for his brother and others on the autism spectrum, and Jahred is also an advocate. Joshua sees his brother as an inspiration.

"Any way I can use my platform to help him, but also other people who have a similar journey to him, is important to me," Joshua said. "Even today, he was speaking at Columbus State Community College about being a student with disabilities and just kind of some of his struggles and how he overcomes them, and I think it's just really interesting getting to know people within that community, and I'm really proud of him and everything that he does, so just anything to help."

Joshua describes Jahred as "one of his best friends," and acknowledges that his transition to the NFL may be difficult for both brothers. The oldest Perry brother, Wes, has moved to California to attend graduate school, so the Perrys do have some experience with this kind of adjustment.

Joshua also believes his transition to the NFL is coming at an ideal time for Jahred.

"He's in a phase right now where I think that he values his independence a lot and he's just kind of exploring himself and what he can do on his own," Perry said. "But obviously, we have a really close relationship."

Perry will play by the rules

You probably won't see Perry breaking league uniform rules to show his support for autism advocacy, however. Former Buckeye and current Pittsburgh Steeler Cameron Heyward was fined by the league for using non-compliant eye black to honor his late father, Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, who died of cancer. Perry said he thought that was admirable.

But he also understands why the league has to establish those boundaries.

"They've got to have rules in place so players just can't do anything, but I think they need to also review what's going on more case-by-case basis," Perry said. "So something like that, that's actually purposeful to honor [Heyward's] father, I think that is a little bit of a shame. But at the same time, I understand why there are rules in place."

A former teammate has given Perry insight into what teams expect

Cam Williams, who was also a linebacker at Ohio State, was Perry's roommate for three years, and the two still talk a couple of times a week. Williams accepted a scouting assistant job with the New England Patriots in February, and he's shared some insights with Perry.

"A lot of what I've found out is they definitely know more than we think they know, which is valuable just from that aspect -- you're probably not going to get a lot past them or there's really no fooling them at this point," Perry said. "But also, they value traits -- things that aren't necessarily tied to stats --€” more than we would expect, too. So it's just been kind of interesting to hear him talk about it."

There are a few things Perry has enjoyed about the pre-draft process

At 268 pounds, Perry was the third-heaviest linebacker at the NFL Combine. His 4.68 40-yard dash was faster than more than two-thirds of the linebackers who ran the 40. He certainly made an impression at the Combine, and he enjoyed seeing the results of his training pay off in that way. Most projections have him being drafted in the second round.

As a student-athlete wanting to avoid NCAA sanctions, Perry obviously couldn't use his celebrity in Columbus to make money. Now that he's moved on from that part of his life, however, it opens up a world of possibilities in a community where Buckeye football is very nearly a religion.

Perry's enjoying that part of it, too.

"The opportunity to make a little bit of money here in Columbus doing appearances, and then through that, being able to meet fans and interact with them has been pretty awesome," Perry said.

There's another reason Perry is enjoying being back in Columbus.

"Just kind of being back here, too, in Columbus, back with some of the guys I played with, has been pretty fun," Perry said. "Because it's like you go away for a couple of months and don't see each other, and then get back, and it's like you haven't missed a beat with those guys. So that's been pretty awesome, too."

Perry wouldn't mind having a familiar face or two on his new team

Ohio State could have a record number of players drafted this year, so it's not surprising that the former Buckeyes have discussed the possibility that some of them may end up on the same team.

Perry certainly isn't opposed to the idea.

"We talk about that every once in a while, mostly jokingly, but it would be interesting to see how that would develop," Perry said. "That would be one cool thing, is going somewhere new and a transition that's completely unlike anything that, basically, I'll ever do again. Just to have somebody I know, somebody I've known for a while there with me would be probably pretty comforting and exciting for the both of us."

The biggest challenge now is the wait

Perry was prepared for it, but these last few weeks leading up to the draft feel interminable.

The hectic nature of the Combine and pro day preparations made things move along more quickly, but now that those events are in the past, the days seem to pass very slowly as players wait for the most important day of their lives.

"Just sitting around, waiting around," Perry said. "It felt like two months for training up for the Combine went at a fairly good pace, I would say, and then pro day kind of came up on us, and that was cool. And then, at this point, it's just felt like it's been dragging on forever. And so they said the last month, basically up until the draft, is going to feel like the longest one. That's how it's feeling for me right now."

As the draft approaches, Perry's staying focused on the prize

It's mostly a waiting game now, but that doesn't mean draft prospects can rest on their laurels. They've gotten feedback from teams as to their strengths and weaknesses, and they have to be ready to hit the ground running after the draft.

Perry said "the physical preparation" is his primary focus in these final weeks before the draft.

"I've got to make sure I get my work in," Perry said. "Working on things where I've gotten feedback on areas of weakness that I can improve on, and then just also maintaining my strengths and making sure that I get those to where they need to be. That's important."

These few weeks are also taxing for NFL prospects. Players don't know where they're going to be drafted and they're facing a lot of significant life changes.

Perry has the benefit of living near his family, which helps keep him grounded during this stressful time.

"Mentally, just staying focused on the prize, but also, not letting the stress kind of get me carried away and take me to somewhere that's€” a bad place," Perry said. "So I think I do a pretty good job of that, and being a local guy, close to home, it's easy to come and see my family and just kind of take my mind off of things that way."

There's a lot to get in order as one transitions from college football to the NFL, and Perry is also focusing on that.

"Now, it's not so much Joshua Perry, the linebacker from Ohio State. It's Joshua Perry, the brand, "Perry said, "So just kind of those things -- making sure I can develop a brand a little bit and kind of get my name out there, I think is important at this time, too."