JACKSONVILLE, Ala. — Ryan Perrilloux could always make the plays. He just couldn't always make it to class, or sidestep trouble with the same ease off the field as he did on it.
Booted from defending national champion Louisiana State in May, Perrilloux is trying to repair his career and his reputation at Jacksonville State, a Football Championship Subdivision team tucked away in east Alabama that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference.
”I let a great opportunity slip away at LSU,“ Perrilloux told The Associated Press in a recent interview. ”Everybody knows that, and I know it, too. But what I have to say is "Will I let that crush me as a player or will I look at that as adversity and use that to drive me and motivate me to do better?'
”That's what I've been doing since I've been here. I've been looking at the mistakes I made at LSU and trying not to make those same mistakes at Jacksonville State.“
Now he's frequently up at 4:30 a.m. for a jam-packed summer schedule of workouts, classes and study halls. One of the nation's most heralded recruits coming out of high school, Perrilloux seems content with the thought of games in front of 15,000 fans instead of 90,000 plus a national television audience.
LSU Coach Les Miles kicked Perrilloux off the team following a string of problems, including skipping classes, missing a team meeting and arriving late for conditioning workouts. Plus, he had been on the fringe of a counterfeiting investigation and was caught trying to use a false ID to get into a Baton Rouge casino.
If Miles' decision caused any hard feelings from either side, it's not obvious. Perrilloux, a Louisiana native, praises him as a great coach who ”gave me every opportunity to do the right thing. I think everybody saw that.“
The 6-foot-3, 222-pound junior still talks regularly to a few of his LSU teammates.
”He's one of the best athletes I've ever been around,“ Tigers defensive end Tyson Jackson said. ”I think he's a real good person. I grew up with him. We lived right around the corner from each other.“
Added center Brett Helms: ”We're going to miss that guy. Anybody with that much talent, we're going to miss.“
Perrilloux's talent was on display late last season and as Matt Flynn's backup. He was MVP of the Southeastern Conference championship game in one of his two starts, passing for 243 yards and a touchdown.
Perrilloux hardly played in the Tigers' win over Ohio State in the BCS title game. It went downhill from there. His father died Feb. 7, and Perrilloux's reliability remained an issue with the team.
After his dismissal came his second round of courtship by college teams. Perrilloux estimates that 60 teams from all NCAA divisions contacted him — many of whom he'd never heard of, including Jacksonville State.
Gamecocks Coach Jack Crowe offered structure and a role as starter-designate. There were no scholarship quarterbacks on the roster after last season's starter, Cedric Johnson, was kicked off for violating team rules.
With Perrilloux's signing, the Gamecocks, who will play at Eastern Kentucky on Oct. 11, were chosen the Ohio Valley Conference favorites by league coaches and pre-season magazines predictions despite coming off a 6-5 season.
Jackson thinks it's a reasonable assessment of Perrilloux's possible impact in the former Division I-AA.
”He's going to tear it apart,“ the LSU defender said.
Crowe said there was no hint of negativity or blaming others when he talked to Perrilloux about taking charge at Jacksonville State. Crowe said Perrilloux has accepted the responsibility of being the No. 1 guy for the first time.
”It gives him an opportunity to get past the frustration he felt at LSU,“ Crowe said.
Perrilloux admits he missed ”a lot of classes“ at LSU, but said he's still on track to graduate in a semester and a half.
His teammates like what they've seen so far. Gamecocks receiver Anthony Johnson was greeted by the sight of the new QB running stadium steps alone on a steamy afternoon when he returned to campus for the summer in early June.
Johnson said Perrilloux doesn't display a big ego to match his talent.
”His first thing was, "We're a team. I'm just like all of you. I want to work as hard as you guys do and be part of the team,' “ Johnson said. ”Not once did he show any kind of big-headedness.“
Perrilloux is hoping to prove himself to fans and prospective NFL teams alike, on and off the field.
”I want to rally these guys around me, and I want to rally on them,“ he said. ”I want them to take me to another level, and I want to take them to another level.“