In Partnership With
Growing up in Florida, it was always just baseball and football. Originally receiving interest from colleges for baseball, I thought that was going to be my ticket to college. But the older I got, the more I fell in love with one thing: playing quarterback.
As much as I loved the game, my recruitment to playing football in the SEC was a little bit different than most. During my sophomore year of high school, I was splitting time at quarterback with an older kid which left me hungry for more playing time. I quickly realized that to further my football career as a quarterback I would need to transfer from Episcopal High School to Ponte Vedra High.
Coming into a completely different team, this turned out to be one of the best moves of my life. Starting for two years, I had the opportunity to lead my team to an eleven win season and our first district championship in school history. Along the way, I set most of the school’s passing records while competing against some of the top talents in the country.
But even with all of this success, my recruitment was nonexistent. I still couldn’t pull a Division I offer.
Being a six-foot quarterback, trying to play D1 is difficult unless you have the speed and athleticism to match your passing like a Johnny Manziel. As hard as I worked, I still couldn’t break through to any school.
One particular memory I have of my recruitment is my visit to West Virginia. Their coaching staff informed my high school coach that if I came up for a visit, and showed interest, they would offer me on the spot after watching my film.
Obviously, I was on the next flight to Morgantown.
When I came for my visit, everything went as planned, but I left confused when I left without an offer. That next Monday, my coach received a call from their staff saying, “I thought Perry was 6’4? Sorry, but we are really looking to recruit a taller quarterback.”
Throughout the rest of my recruitment, this was the trip that really stuck with me. It was obvious I had the ability, I just didn’t have the height. I was simply being overlooked because of a few inches.
It was extremely tough to hear, but I wasn’t going to let anyone stand in the way of reaching my goal of playing Division 1 football.
Throughout my recruitment, one school that I always kept in contact with was Coach Spurrier and South Carolina. They continued to show interest until the very end, but as signing day was approaching, I still didn’t have a firm offer from them. Realizing that playing for the Gamecocks might be my best shot at playing D1, I asked if they would take me on as a preferred walk-on instead.
I didn’t receive an answer at first, but then on National Signing Day, I picked up the phone for a Columbia area code and heard Coach Spurrier’s familiar voice. He told me that he would take me on as a walk on and that if I worked hard enough, I could earn a scholarship and get a chance to play.
That was all I was asking for. An opportunity.
Once I arrived in Columbia, I viewed every single day as a competition. Whether it was meetings, workouts, or practice, I wanted to prove to everybody that I belonged and was capable of being our quarterback one day.
From the very beginning, our quarterbacks, Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, took me under their wing and helped teach me how to be a SEC quarterback. From teaching me the offense to showing me the preparation it takes to be the starter, I was always grateful to have two elite mentors help me make the transition to college football.
After a successful year, finishing with the highest rank in school history and winning eleven games, Coach Spurrier pulled me aside after our Capital One Bowl victory to talk about my future. He explained to me that he was proud of the progress I had made and was going to give me an opportunity to be the backup to Dylan during my sophomore season.
This gave me a ton of confidence moving forward and I took every day that off-season like it was the biggest opportunity of my life. I was excited to earn that spot.
When the next season came around, I had worked my way up the depth chart. And with that season, I saw an opportunity for the future forming.
After many ups and downs, losing many close games but finishing with a bowl win, I saw that there would be a vacancy at the quarterback position. Dylan Thompson was graduating and there was no clear starter. I wanted to earn that spot.
With a heated quarterback battle in the offseason, I came up just short. I was named as the backup for our first game against North Carolina, but I felt like I was right there. I was obviously upset, as I felt like I had outperformed the others, and believed that the reason I was overlooked was because the others were recruited here and I was a former walk-on. Although I had earned the scholarship that Spurrier had once promised me an opportunity for, I still felt like I was at a disadvantage.
But after an injury to our starter in the first game, I was given the chance to start. Unfortunately, this is also where our team started to fall apart. I worked hard, posting decent passing statistics as the starter for the remainder of our season, but we still couldn’t find a way to win many games. Losing every close game, the team’s motivation started to dip.
This is also when the unthinkable happened: Coach Spurrier left.
Watching Coach leave was difficult, as it was in the middle of the season and very abrupt, but we still had six games left on the schedule. It was hard for many of us, as he was the one who helped recruit us, but we knew we had to keep pushing. We decided that we would work as hard as possible in every game, no matter what the odds were. Even though we didn’t finish out the way we wanted to, we still competed as hard as we could and I think Gamecock nation saw that.
But with the season ending, we were left with endless questions about our future.
Right after our last game, one of those questions was answered. the program would bring in a new coach. That new coach was Will Muschamp.
Coach Muschamp immediately turned our program in a different direction, as his intensity and passion brought a different feeling to everything we did. He brought a hard nose mentality to our football program that was focused on an attention to detail and a gritty work ethic. With his past experience in addition to the new confidence he helped instill in our team, we all expected to compete in every game and make it to a bowl game that next year.
I also knew that with him coming in, I would have an opportunity to compete for the starting job again. And as a quarterback, that’s all you can ever ask for.
Honestly, with all of the team changes, my senior year was a roller coaster. Going from the starter to the backup to the starter again, and then moving to become a mentor was difficult.
Starting the season, I won the battle through my experience and leadership, but our offense had some early season struggles. After a few games, Coach decided to go in a different direction at quarterback. It was an extremely difficult process for me, as I just wanted to help the team win, but it was Muschamp’s call. After a few games of back and forth between the different quarterbacks, it was Jake Bentley who finally took the position.
I will say, this was by far the most challenging quarterback battle that I had been in my entire career at Carolina. This competition was against two younger talents, Brandon Mcilwain and Jake Bentley, who made me work harder than I ever had before. They made me a better player while competing against them, and for this, they gained my respect. I also understood that they were only freshman, so I wanted to help in their development for the future of the program. I remembered what the older guys had done for me, so I wanted to help support the future of our program.
Taking a page out of Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson’s playbook, I tried to help improve both players throughout the season. From working out to watching film, I tried to teach them what the older guys had taught me, so they would have every opportunity to succeed.
Because ultimately, we all just wanted to help the Gamecocks win football games.
After the season, while I was wrapping up my football career, I realized that this was where I could really contribute. I really felt comfortable working with younger athletes, and I thought this could be something I could carry on. After working with the two freshman quarterbacks all season, I decided to start my own training camp to help develop quarterbacks. QB 1 Athletics came as a result.
After working with the two freshman quarterbacks all season, I decided to start my own training camp to help develop quarterbacks. QB 1 Athletics came as a result.
We originally designed QB 1 Athletics not only to physically train athletes but also mentor and teach them how to play the game mentally. We may be just starting, but I hope to see QB 1 Athletics influence athletes throughout the Southeast in the future.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from a career full of ups and downs, it’s that there is always someone else you can pass your knowledge on and help improve. Although your playing time may be over, it’s really about improving the people around you and helping the team succeed.
You have to pass the torch.
Perry Orth | Contributor