EAST LANSING – I used to think
there was a limit to how much punishment one player could handle in
a football game before having to wave the white flag. But Saturday
afternoon, Chris Perry’s performance went beyond anything I ever
thought possible from a college football player – especially
considering what Michigan’s senior running back is going through
off the field.
Irene Perry, Chris’s mother, has been diagnosed with cancer. To
keep his mother fresh in his mind while playing, Perry has been
wearing a band around his shoulder since the Iowa game with the
word “MOM” written on it. Chris knows there is only so much he can
control, so all he can do is pray for his mother and keep fighting
for more yards.
“(Chris) Perry has the heart of a champion,” Lloyd Carr said. “I
love that kid and the way he’s played and the career he’s had at
He took “leaving it all out on the field” to a new level –
seriously, if you look closely, you’ll probably find parts of him
still lying out there.
Statistically, it went down in history as one of the greatest
rushing performances in Michigan history. He went for 219 yards on
a school-record 51 carries, and scored a touchdown. He also had two
receptions, giving him 53 touches on the day.
But Perry’s performance transcends the meaning of statistics.
Honestly, how many people will actually be able to recall the exact
number of carries he had in a few years? I probably won’t. But
people do remember images, such as the hopeless look on Perry’s
face after last season’s loss to Ohio State in Columbus.
Perry’s perseverance left me with several intense, vivid images
that stick out above the touchdown catches or the lockdown Michigan
defense. When I look back on this game, it will be those images
that I remember the most.
I will always remember watching Perry late in the fourth quarter
(well into the 40s in carries), battling extreme fatigue just to
get up out of the pile after a run. I will remember how he would
lay there a few extra seconds each time to somehow catch his breath
and get back to the huddle, only to hear he would be carrying the
I will always remember how dirty his jersey was late in the
game. It got to the point where it was so brown from the mud, it
looked like he was wearing a different uniform than his
I will remember him leaning on the referee to support himself,
even though he’ll tell you that he was just jokingly asking him to
take some time off the clock. And I will remember how amazed I was
that, even though he was about to drop dead from the beating he was
taking, he was able to maintain his concentration and still run for
positive yardage without fumbling the football.
And I will never forget Perry’s post-game press conference. He
was a beacon of emotion, full of life; a warrior ready to go back
out for more. He said the only thing he wished was that he had
gained more yards.
“He’s always asking for 40 carries, and this is when he needed
to carry 40 times,” running backs coach Fred Jackson said. “I did
not think he would carry 50 times, but since we had the bye week
coming up I thought it would be OK.”
Perry says he would have carried 60 times if that is what it
would have taken to win.