Former UK guard Todd Perry will be inducted into the Kentucky NFL Hall of Fame on June 23rd at the Lexington Opera House. He was recruited to UK by Jerry Claiborne. The former Wildcat head coach remained loyal with his offer even after an injury that occurred prior to Perry’s senior season at North Hardin HS. He was later selected in the 4th round by Chicago. Twenty years passed before another Kentucky offensive lineman was selected in the NFL Draft (Larry Warford). Perry went on to enjoy a successful professional career as he played eight years with the Bears and three with the Dolphins.
Todd’s was a teammate of mine. I’m proud of his football accomplishments. He’s also comprehensively respected and revered as one of the good guys in UK Football history. Here’s a Q&A interview with my friend:
-Question: Why did you choose to attend the University of Kentucky?
-Todd Perry: I grew up a Kentucky fan and had attended the football camp early in high school. UK was one of my first offers. I started getting many other offers before my senior year and some of them were very tempting. I injured my knee in a preseason scrimmage, had surgery, and missed my senior year. Many schools dropped their offers. When I told Coach Claiborne about my injury, he said, “I am sorry to hear about your injury, but it will be ok, because you will recover and go on to have a great career as a Wildcat.” He was the only coach that stuck with me, so I knew Kentucky was the place for me.
-Question: Describe your “Welcome to the SEC” moment.
-Perry: It was during my freshman year. I was going to be redshirted, but every week a scout team player was allowed to dress out for the game. I was lucky enough to win it the week we beat Georgia, who was ranked #11 in the country. It was the first time I was ever on the field and I remember standing there the whole game with my jaw open. The speed and violence of the collisions shocked me. It was way different than practice. That’s when I knew I was getting ready to play on a whole other level.
-Question: What was your fondest memory as a Kentucky Wildcat?
-Perry: Beating LSU in Death Valley my Senior year.
-Question: How did you spend Draft Day?
-Perry: I spent my draft day at home with my family. It was quite a long day, because back then they did four rounds the first day of the draft and I didn’t get the call until about 8 pm. When the Bears called it was a mixture of relief and surprise. I was glad the waiting was over, but I had very little contact with the Bears organization (a scout, who came to practice during the fall) during the entire process, so I was surprised they drafted me. I was convinced I was going to be drafted by the Buccaneers or the Browns because of the meetings I had with them. Funny story about draft day — I never had cable TV growing up and my Dad had to finally break down and order it so he would have ESPN and could watch the draft. My younger brothers were probably more excited about finally having cable, than an older brother drafted in the NFL.
-Question: How difficult was your transition from the SEC to the NFL?
-Perry: I believe playing in the SEC gave me a tremendous advantage in my transition to the NFL. I played against NFL caliber defensive lineman my whole career at Kentucky. However, it was still an extremely difficult transition. It was an eye-opening experience. The speed of the game and talent level was nothing I had ever seen. I wasn’t totally comfortable and confident with it until about my third year in the league. Every single player I faced was an elite talent. I’m glad I didn’t think much about it at the time. Playing in the NFC Central, I faced Reggie White, Gilbert Brown, Warren Sapp, John Randle, Henry Thomas, and Luther Ellis TWICE a year!! Three of those guys are in the Hall of Fame. When I think about that now, I have no idea how I blocked them.
-Question: Did you watch UK play in 2016 and what are your thoughts on a 2-deep offensive line rotation? Did I watch UK play in 2016 and opinions of rotating two offensive lines?
-Perry: I have kept up with and watched UK football over the years and was very impressed with the 2016 team. I knew they have been close these last few years and have struggled to finish seasons strong. It was great to see them finish strong with a win over Louisville and a get back to a bowl game. I think Coach Schlarman has done an excellent job developing the offensive line and I think it is awesome that UK was able to play two offensive lines last year. In most situations, any team will only play 6 linemen throughout a season. The ability to have as many linemen with playing experience returning will pay huge dividends this season. There are multiple guys who can play multiple positions and it will help protect the team from injury concerns, plus, the competition to earn playing time will only make the group better.
-Question: Why 20 years between offensive lineman drafted?
-Perry: That is a great question with a hard answer. I didn’t realize it had been that many years between me and Larry Warford being drafted. I was surprised because UK has had some very successful years in the span. I suppose there hasn’t been a consistent enough performance that would allow you to recruit top offensive lineman prospects. The best prospects have traditionally gone to the powerhouse programs with a long winning tradition. The critics have always said you can’t recruit top linemen in the state of Kentucky, because you lose the best ones to out of state programs and you get second best from their states. The most exciting thing for me has been the number of highly ranked recruits that Coach Stoops and the staff have been able to bring home to UK, especially offensive lineman. I don’t believe there will be a long wait for the next drafted offensive lineman out of UK.
-Question: How good can Kentucky be in 2017?
-Perry: I think last year put the program over the hump. Even with some big graduation losses, the players returning will have tons of playing experience and with some of these young but very talented recruits coming in, the team has the competitive depth to compete in the SEC. I think the offensive and defensive skill is as talented as it has been in years and if the lines can continue their progress, there is no reason they can’t compete for an East title next season. The future is very bright, in my opinion, and for me personally, I’m ready for the Florida losing streak to GO AWAY!!!!!!
-Question: What are you doing these days?
-Perry: I have been coaching offensive line the last ten years and love it. I was fortunate to help Coach Curry start the program at Georgia State the first two seasons and then was able to coach my son, Tyler, in high school at Milton High School. There have been six of my offensive lineman go on to play at the FBS level and have had a ton of success. It has been very rewarding.
-Question: What does it mean to be named an KY NFL HOF?
-Perry: It is a perfect ending to my football career. I wasn’t lucky enough to have many winning or championship seasons during my football career, but to be considered one of the best players from the state of Kentucky is unbelievable honor. When I look at the list of men in the KY Pro Hall of Fame, I am extremely humbled. There are men that played my position, who I have idolized, such as Jeff Van Note and Dermontti Dawson, and to become a member of their team is amazing!
Humble, thoughtful, and loyal. These words accurately describe Todd Perry. But, don’t be fooled by his nice natured personality. He was a technical mauler on the line-of-scrimmage. I was honored to be in the huddle with Todd during his first college football snap. The wide eyed rookie never looked back and went on to experience tremendous success in the National Football League.
For tickets and further information on the Kentucky NFL Hall of Fame go to http://kyprofootballhof.org/.