Perine puts dream on hold to improve his game at Florida

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Florida running back La' Mical Perine scores from five yards out during the third quarter Saturday against Michigan in Atlanta. [Mike Stewart/Associated Press]

Among the top Florida juniors electing to return for their senior season, running back La’ Mical Perine appears to be the one who came closest to declaring for the NFL draft.

“It was one of the hardest decisions of my life,” he said.

It was hard because, well, that usual reason for kids who grow up playing football.

“It was a difficult decision because of this dream I’ve been dreaming about my whole life (to play in the NFL),” Perine said. “When it came down to it, I honestly had to make a grown-up decision.”

After going over feedback from the NFL and having some long discussions with his parents, he decided to put his pro football dream on hold for a year and return for his senior season.

He says he has no doubt he made the right call.

“I’m happy to be here,” Perine said. “I’m happy to be here every day. I love being a Gator — 100 percent. I wouldn’t change that for anything.”

The Gators are happy he’s a Gator, too. Coming off a breakout junior season in which he led the Gators in rushing (826 yards , 6.1 yards a carry), Perine figures to be a key component in Dan Mullen’s offense in 2019, especially with Jordan Scarlett’s decision to forego his senior season to enter the draft.

“He’s very important,” said wide receiver Van Jefferson, another top junior who is returning for his senior season. “He’s a great back. He’s made some runs where I’m like, ‘Wow, that dude is really strong.’ He runs between the tackles very hard. He’s a hard worker.

“He has goals that he wants to accomplish. I feel like he’s going to reach those goals. He has team goals as well. He’s going to put the time and effort in to make sure this program gets to where it needs to be.

“He’s an important piece coming back.”

Perine said one of the main reasons he came back is the opportunity to possibly play for a championship this season. The Gators came fairly close in Mullen’s first season, going 10-3 and finishing in a New Year’s Six bowl and in the final top 10 nationally.

Perine said he also wants to continue his development as a complete back, something he began working on in earnest last season, and he’s looking forward to seeing how potent Mullen’s offense is going to be in Year Two.

“I just felt like I had a lot of unfinished business,” he said. “When it was time to make the decision to go, I wasn’t 100 percent ready yet. I had talked with my family about it and they felt like it wouldn’t hurt me to come back.”

The feedback he received from the NFL seems a little bit vague. Perine said he was projected to go anywhere from the second day (rounds two and three) to the third day (rounds 4-7).

He has a much better idea where he fits in at Florida. For one, he’ll be the No. 1 running back and he’ll have a chance to continue working on the other important aspects of his position — pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield.

“I’ve still got a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “I made a big change in my life from my sophomore year to my junior year, learning how to fight through adversity and learn from everybody. Take everything in, learn from every coach.

“At the next level, you have to know how to catch, block, pass protect. All that. You’ve got to be a versatile player. There are a lot of people who know how to run the ball, but not many who catch the ball at running back.

“That’s the trait I’m going to carry on to the next level. I’m going to continue it this upcoming season.”

Speaking of 2019, Perine said Mullen’s offense is another reason he came back.

“I feel like I can’t do anything but progress in the offense we’re in,” he said. “I know Coach Mullen is going to dial it up every time we take the field.”

35 COMMENTS

  1. Proud again of a young man making the right decision to return. There is nothing that I can state that he hadn’t covered in the article. As long as he gets insurance, and he doesn’t get too banged up, he should surely improve his draft stock for 2020. One more weapon with a side of Senior leadership. GO GATORS!!!

  2. Perrine coming back is HUGE. He was our best back and he can only get better. Here we have another guy coming back and saying a big part of the reason why is he can’t wait to play in Mullen’s offense in year 2.
    The players seem to be excited about this upcoming season so we might as well get excited too.
    Go Gators!

  3. Risk/Reward Perrine has made the decision to return. Risks range from injury (always a possibility in the sport) to poor decision making by coaches (not likely on this team)/ Rewards range from completing and education and continuing to with a professional career (which may or may not include the NFL though we think it will) to becoming the complete player he is on track to being and light up college football and head to the NFL with as a 1st rounder with a bright future. Beyond that he and others are showing they are here as a team with individual hopes and dreams but they are here for each other as a team. While I do not fault those that leave they have to make that choice I cannot help but admire those that stay through 4 years. If our new guys get to speed and the returning players are healthy they should be contenders and not counted out in any game next year.

      • I think if he gets drafted in the 2nd or third round next year he made the right decision. Only truly elite and game changing running backs (based off projection of course) seem to be taken in the first round anymore. I’m not sure if Perine is that type of back but I sure hope he proves me to be the fool. Last year I didn’t understand why everyone was so high on him and he certainly showed me why during the season. I enjoy watching this young man run and even better is he’s a great representative of our program and school!

  4. I will start with I’m extremely happy that Perrine came back. But as far as raising his draft stock, I don’t think it will change much. And after watching Pierce in limited action this past season, I’m not sure that Perrine will even be able to hold on to the #1 rb title all season. He gives us added depth, and that’s always a good thing. Go Gators

  5. in last year’s NFL draft 22 running backs were taken, 7 in the first 2 rounds. In 2017 30 RBs were drafted, 4 in the first 2 rounds, in 2016 21 RBs were drafted, 2 in the first 2 rounds, in 2015 21 RBs were drafts 4 in the first 2 rounds. ( first 2 rounds are typically guaranteed, all other rounds only the signing bonus is) I doubt Scarlett will be a 1st or 2 round pick, thus his money will not be guaranteed. Running Backs are smart to look at the other draft-eligible RBs and see where they likely place. If you are not a for sure top 4 RB, stay in school, get better and earn more $$$..
    I truly hope our O-Line is filled with road graders and the RBs have a monster year! Go Gators!

  6. Remember the 1-2 punch that the Dolphins had with Larry Czonka (the thunder) and Mercury Morris
    (the lightening ?) They were virtually unbeatable. Well, the Gators have a three headed version of that.
    Perine is the thunder and can bust wholes in lines. Pierce and Malik Davis will be the lightening racing around end. Get ready for thunder and lightening in Gainesville.

  7. So grateful that Perine decided to play out his senior year at UF and help the Gators to the SEC East title (and hopefully the SEC title). Perine has good size, strength and speed. I have no doubt he will become the better blocker and pass receiver he wants and plans to become. With another year of development, Perine will be a 1st or (at least) 2nd round draft pick. Not many backs have is combination of size and speed. GO GATORS!!!

  8. i agree with just about everything here, this kid is a great back. and if his blocking gets to elite, that will help us in an area of concern due to the number of guys leaving in the offensive front.
    Stats have us returning almost 80% of last years overall team wide production, only tennessee is better in the SEC, although we are returning from a more productive base. lets hope wednesday goes well, and i know we were working on an elite guard from georgia tech through the transfer portal, that would be huge if we land him. im still nervous about the offensive line next year, i am from the school that our team is basically as good as our offensive line. that is more true for us than most teams, because our state produces elite athletes, but great offensive linemen are one of those things that there just arent enough of in our world.

  9. I love his attitude and it seems that Mullen’s teams are full of players with that attitude. He really inspires them to be their best. Oh how grateful I am we have him as HC! I love that his recruiting pitch is ‘ you will work harder than you ever have’… really weeds out the chaff, the prima donnas!

  10. As I’ve said a million times before Perine has been my favorite guy from Day 1. He was invested way back in high school with the mindset of being a Gator by paying his own way to Gainesville for a camp. Will be fun to watch him, Pierce, and the forgotten one Malik Davis this season. I think with the threat of the running game along with the day by day improvement of Franks that this will be a dangerous team to deal with in the SEC. GEAUXXX GATORS!!!