Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Heisman Spotlight: Michigan RB Chris Perry


Running, receiving, blocking: You name it, Perry can do it

The Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Chris Perry was sprawled out on the turf at Michigan Stadium after taking a hit against Ohio State.

When Michigan's star running back didn't get up right away, his fans helped him out.

"Per-ry! Per-ry!" 100,000-plus fans chanted.

Perry peeled himself off the ground, and was helped from the field by the team's medical staff. He stayed on the sideline for only one play.

"The 'Per-ry, Per-ry' thing was a big deal," he said Monday. "It was such a big deal that I didn't want to focus on it during the game because I felt it would distract me too much. I don't think I'll ever get another feeling like that."

Unless, perhaps, he wins the Heisman Trophy.

Perry is a candidate because he does it all - rushing, catching and blocking - for the fourth-ranked and Rose Bowl-bound Wolverines.

With power, speed and elusive cuts, he has run for 1,589 yards, ranking fourth in the nation.

Perry has caught 42 passes, a Michigan record for a running back and good enough for second among running backs with 1,955 yards rushing and receiving.

He's tied for seventh in the country with 19 touchdowns.

And those are just the tangible statistics.

John Navarre has thrown for 23 TDs, 14 to Braylon Edwards, in part because of Perry's blocking.

"His pass-blocking was unreal this year," Edwards said. "A lot of the touchdowns I get are because of him saving John Navarre from being sacked."

Perry produced a spectacular season - highlighted by a 204-yard, two-TD game against Ohio State - despite worrying about his ailing mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"He has handled all of that extremely well," said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.

In the middle of the season, Perry began writing "MOM" with a black marker on a white wristband and wrapping it around his left biceps before games.

If Perry is invited to the Heisman Trophy announcement on Saturday in New York - and he will not know until Wednesday - his mother plans to be with him.

Irene Perry, who moved from North Carolina to Ann Arbor to start a business and be near her son, canceled her fourth chemotherapy session last week when she was told about Perry's chances of winning the Heisman.

"I had to reschedule it because I am not going to miss this opportunity if he's blessed enough to get it," she said Monday.

Perry's story almost ended at another school. He expected to spend most of his freshman year on the sideline behind Anthony Thomas, but was not happy as a sophomore playing behind converted fullback B.J. Askew.

When Carr told him, "You can leave," and many, including his mother, supported Carr's tough-love approach, he decided to stay.

Perry hopes he receives some Heisman votes because he was at his best in Michigan's biggest games. He had 154 yards rushing and two TDs against Ohio State, the top-ranked team against the run, and 50 yards receiving.

In the biggest comeback in school history against Minnesota, he caught 11 passes for 122 yards and a TD and had 85 yards rushing and another score.

But he also knows Heisman voters scrutinize all the candidates, and some might point to his lackluster numbers in the Wolverines' two losses.

At Oregon, he ran for just 26 yards on 11 carries, and at Iowa, he ran for 87 yards. In both games, he caught just two passes.

"My performance in those games was sub-par, and I have no excuse for it," he said. "If they're going to nitpick me with those two games, I just hope they also look at the whole picture with both losses and look at my whole season."

THE PERRY FILE

Ht: 6-1. Wt: 228.

Year: Sr.

Hometown:

Advance, N.C.

Season rushing stats

No.Yds.Avg.TDs
3151,5895.017
Season receiving stats

No.Yds.Avg.TDs
423668.72
Noteworthy: Rushing total of 1,589 yards ranks fourth in the nation; 42 catches are a Michigan record for a running back; seventh in the country with 19 touchdowns; had a 204-yard, two-TD game in big win against Ohio State.

DID YOU KNOW?

If you want to win the Heisman, running back is the position to play. Forty winners have come from the position. The rest of the winners: 22 quarterbacks, five wide receivers and one defensive back.

HEISMAN FLASHBACK

The last Michigan player to win the Heisman Trophy was also the only defensive player to win the award in its 68-year existence - cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997. The football juggernaut in Ann Arbor has produced two other Heisman winners - wide receiver Desmond Howard, a runaway winner in 1991, and the mighty halfback Tom Harmon in 1940.




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