When the phone call finally came Thursday night and Breshad Perriman learned where his NFL career would begin, he celebrated with his family members who had joined him in Chicago for the first round of the draft.
His father, Brett, who was a second-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 1988 and played 10 seasons in the NFL, hugged him and then relayed a simple, succinct message: "Time to go to work," he told his son.
Perriman, the Central Florida wide receiver whom the Ravens drafted with the 26th overall pick Thursday night, has good size, blazing speed and an impressive skill set. However, he also arrives in the league with questions about his hands and focus. He didn't shy away from those concerns at his introductory news conference at the Ravens' facility Friday afternoon, and even compared his game to that of Atlanta Falcons standout wide receiver Julio Jones.
"It's something I have a chip on my shoulder about," Perriman said when asked about the drops. "At the end of the day, I know what I have to do and I know that I can catch. So, lack of concentration some mental drops in this past season — that's something I've been working on tremendously. I know they see that as a weakness, but I will use that as a motivation."
The Ravens hadn't picked a wide receiver in the first round since they selected Mark Clayton in 2005. For all of general manager Ozzie Newsome's success in the draft, the team's struggle to select and develop pass catchers is well documented.
So, Perriman, 21, will enter a situation where much will be expected. The Ravens have only one wide receiver — veteran Steve Smith — that caught more than 25 passes last season. All of the Ravens receivers, a group that also includes Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro, are possession guys, so Perriman will be counted on to be the team's deep threat.
"He's talked to Steve and Marlon and there's a standard that's been set in the wide receiver room and the bar has been set high," said Ravens wide receivers coach Bobby Engram. "He's up for the challenge, just like he said, he's going to come in and work hard. He knows that there's responsibility and being drafted first, there's great expectations. We've just got to get him ready to go. He's got to come in ready to work. If we do our job as coaches, he's going to be fine."
Perriman is 6 feet 2, 212 pounds, and ran a 4.22 40-yard dash at the Central Florida pro day. He caught 115 passes for 2,243 yards and 16 touchdowns in three seasons for the Knights. But following his selection by the Ravens, there was just as much discussion about the plays he didn't make. Former NFL head coach and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden was particularly critical of Perriman's drops last season.
"That's not a weakness," said Perriman who will wear No. 18 for the Ravens because the No. 11 that he wore in college is taken by Aiken, also a former Central Florida Knight. "That will probably be one of my strengths, ball skills, and catching the ball."
According to Pro Football Focus, Perriman had eight drops in 2014, one fewer than he had touchdown catches. He told the Ravens that most of those were the result of lapses in concentration.
"He had struggles with the mental aspect of things where he loses his concentration," Central Florida wide receivers coach Sean Beckton said. "That's contributed to the number of drops that he's had over the years. I think he's got great hands and that's one thing that he's had to overcome — that mental aspect of taking his eyes off the football. I thought he made huge strides after the Louisville game his sophomore year. From then on, he had the confidence level to go out and play at a high level."
Beckton said he felt that Perriman was sometimes worn down by the repetitions he took in practice. Once the Knights' coaching staff started to cut down his repetitions, Perriman started to play the best football of his college career.
"He got his pop back," Beckton said. "He was more consistent catching the football. He didn't have as many drops. He was able to run. I just think his best football is ahead of him once he gets into the pro level and Coach Engram works with him. I don't think the drops will be an issue."
Beckton spoke to Perriman on the phone Friday morning before his flight left for Baltimore, and he sensed the excitement in his former player's voice.
The Ravens have a strong-armed and Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Joe Flacco. Their offensive coordinator, Marc Trestman, is a proponent of the vertical passing game. Trestman coached Perriman's father when both were at the University of Miami in 1984.
Brett Perriman, who caught 525 passes for 6,589 yards and 30 touchdowns over his 10-year NFL career, was obviously excited when he heard his son's name called Thursday night. But the magnitude of what Breshad accomplished didn't hit until Friday morning.
"Most time, you'll see, I carry no expression. I'll tell him I'm proud of him or whatever but I usually just try and stay kind of 'blah' with him," Brett Perriman said. "I tell him, 'you don't get too high, you don't get too low.' But as a parent, you've got to show him love as well. Everyone asked be how I feel about it [Thursday] and I told them I didn't really feel any type of way. I was happy, but today it really set in. I'm very, very happy and proud as a dad of his accomplishments. It's hard to get in the NFL. The odds are stacked against you. For him to make it and to go first round, that's a big honor."