Patience has been a virtue for Jonathan Perry throughout the first two years of his college football career.
The former Dunbar quarterback redshirted as a freshman and got acclimated to life at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Then last fall, Perry broke his collarbone in camp and missed the entire season.
Heading into year three, however, Perry seems primed to make an impact. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound redshirt sophomore – the fifth-string signal caller one year ago – finished spring practice as the Blazers' backup quarterback.
"I think I said [before beginning college that] between the second and third year I [wanted to] be in a position where I can be the guy and quarterback the offense. I feel like I'm not there yet, but I feel like I'm on my way," Perry said. "I've got a lot more to work on, a lot more to do. I feel like the goal I have is definitely reachable right now."
Perry was a late addition to UAB's 2009 recruiting class, having earned a qualifying SAT score late in his senior year and subsequently signing with the Blazers that May.As a freshman, Perry watched from the sideline as UAB starter Joe Webb – now with the Minnesota Vikings – threw for 2,299 yards and rushed for 1,427. Learning from Webb proved to a beneficial experience for Perry – and evidence that UAB's offense was well suited for him.
"I would say [the offense is a] mixture of both passing and spread offenses, but we have some designed runs – not as much as when we had Joe Webb," Perry said. "With the athleticism that I have [and] getting stronger and faster, as the No. 2 guy I would do a lot of those things offensively as far as running the ball, keeping teams off balance."
Perry's injury last year was a disappointment, but it did force the former Poets star to spend more time learning the intricacies of the Blazers' system. The change in approach and preparation from high school to college was drastic.
"Everything is a lot quicker," Perry said. "You don't have enough time to think. Going from a pro-style offense to a spread, a lot of things are a lot quicker. You're basically getting in the film room and studying, just spending as much time in the film room … going through progressions, check downs, getting the ball out and throwing it away, stuff like that. I learned a lot."
"Coming back in the spring [100 percent healthy], I bounced back and felt like I showed myself a lot," Perry said. "Coming into the season as a backup, I feel like the coaching staff at some point in time, it's going to be my show. I'm just preparing for my time whenever it is."
Perry was back in Baltimore for most of this month, but was scheduled to return to Birmingham today, where he will remain all summer. While he misses his family being so far away from home, he's hopeful that his next trip back won't be until January – after a bowl game. Until then, Perry remains focused on the task at hand.
"My goal is to stay ready for when my number is called, to also continue to get better and learn from the guy in front of me, and to continue to get better as a quarterback," Perry said. "When my number is called, [I want to] just execute and play smart and do what I've been doing all my life and not miss a beat when they put me on the field. I won't let my team down."
Baltimore Sun photo of Jonathan Perry by Kenneth K. Lam / Dec. 12, 2008