Breshad Perriman seeks to quietly make his own name with the Ravens

Breshad Perriman already had posed for dozens of photos, conducted countless interviews and uncomfortably learned his NFL fate in front of television cameras.

He maintained his patience and poise throughout, but the whirlwind 24 hours was finally starting to take its toll. Sitting in an office at the Ravens' training facility the afternoon before the second round of the NFL draft, Perriman fidgeted with his phone and shifted anxiously in his chair. Stealing an occasional glance at the football fields outside, Perriman couldn't wait to move on to the next phase of his rookie season.


"I'm very anxious just to be here, focus on football and leave everything else behind," Perriman said.

If only it had ever been that easy for the team's first-round draft pick, who was on the field the past two days for the Ravens' rookie minicamp. For all their draft success, the Ravens have struggled to develop an elite wide receiver and the 6-foot-2, 212-pound speedster out of Central Florida is their latest hope.


It's a lot to put on a 21-year-old, though Perriman has been dealing with high expectations his whole life. His father, Brett, played 10 seasons in the NFL and had more than 500 receptions. He is only 5-9, but he cast a large shadow that his youngest son has never really escaped.

Even during the telecast of the draft's first round, a highlight package of the soon-to-be Raven started with a clip of his father, who was drafted by the New Orleans Saints 27 years earlier.

"That pressure will never exit," said Brett Perriman Jr., the oldest of Brett and Laundria Perriman's four kids. "I think the time he's going to experience that the most will be now. This is the height of it all. There's nothing else to reach for. He's made it. The great thing about Breshad is he's very linear in his thinking and he's able to block things out when he needs to. It's definitely one of those pressure points for us. We can't erase our father's history. Breshad's the baby boy, but he's the one who handles pressure the best."

There was a time when Brett Perriman wondered how serious his youngest son was about playing football. Now, he marvels at all Breshad has overcome.


Breshad had a painful knee condition throughout his adolescence. He attended three Georgia high schools in as many years. He broke his ankle in his senior season and got just two college scholarship offers. A variety of nagging injuries cropped up in college.

"He's had everything known to man — a lot of setbacks," said Brett Perriman Sr. "But he worked hard and he was rewarded."

Pain and perseverance

Perriman had a strong final season at Central Florida, catching 50 passes for 1,044 yards and nine touchdowns. But his transformation from an intriguing prospect into a first-round pick essentially was made in 4.22 seconds, the amount of time it took Perriman to run the 40-yard dash at his pro day in March. When he crossed the line, several NFL scouts glanced at their stopwatches in disbelief.

His arms pumping in rhythm, his long strides chewing up turf, Perriman distanced himself from past knee problems with every step. Until his late teens, he struggled with Osgood-Schlatter disease, a form of knee inflammation that primarily affects children. Brett Perriman and all three of his sons dealt with the symptoms before outgrowing the disease.

"There's nothing you can do, so you have to deal with it," Brett said. "Some people can, some can't. But for a young kid, it becomes unbearable."

Breshad was in the junior Olympic track program and there were times he'd cross the finish line and double over in pain. He wore special insoles, but they only helped so much.

That wasn't the only thing that Breshad saw as an impediment to a potential football scholarship. His first high school, Heritage High in Conyers, Ga., never threw the ball. A frustrated wide receiver, he transferred to Martin Luther King High in Lithonia. That wasn't a good fit either, so he enrolled at nearby and nascent Arabia Mountain High in time for his senior year.

"Nobody actually knew Breshad coming in, but you would have thought that he was deeply invested in Arabia Mountain instead of being there for just one year," said Terrone Owens, the team's offensive coordinator at the time. "He wasn't a 'me, me' kid. He was very humble. As a player, he was pretty advanced. There wasn't a lot of coaching I had for him."

Perriman began to hear from more and more schools early in his senior season, but after he broke his ankle, many of the calls stopped. As he prepared to make his college decision, Perriman had just two formal scholarship offers: Central Florida and Florida International.

"I knew he was a good player, but he just couldn't develop through all the problems that he had along the way," Brett said.

Similar goals, different demeanors

Central Florida wide receivers coach Sean Beckton had no idea whether Perriman was enjoying his campus visit. Perriman said very little to coaches or even the Knights' players. But during the ride back to the airport, the wide receiver interrupted the silence.

"He said, 'Coach, I want to be one of the best receivers that ever played here,'" recalled Beckton who had previously worked with future NFL wideouts Brandon Marshall and Mike Sims-Walker. "Looking back on it, he lived up to that billing."

As Beckton got to know Perriman, he learned that the player was shy and uncomfortable in the spotlight. That's where Breshad and his father differed most.

"I think I've started to open up a little more as I get older, but I'm the type just to sit back and kind of observe," Breshad said. "My dad is the complete opposite. He's real talkative. He's outspoken and outgoing. But that has never been me."

Brett said Breshad takes after his mother.

"I'm way more aggressive, way more outgoing. I had to be because I had the short man's syndrome," Brett said. "He's laid-back, calm, quiet and very, very humble. We had to do a lot to get him to talk to the media and everything else."

Breshad was about 5 years old when his father played his final NFL game in 1997. His memories of Brett's NFL career were shaped by watching tape. Beckton said that Breshad would come back to campus after breaks with a notebook, detailing all the things he wanted to work on after watching film with his father.

It wasn't always easy for Breshad, hearing the constant comparisons, having his father dissect his play. But he knew that it came from a good place and his game was shaped by those film study sessions and on-field workouts with his dad.

"He's loosened up a little bit, but at the same time, he kind of kept pressure on me," Breshad said. "After every game, even if I had a good game, he'd always tell me what's something I could do better. But he never tried to get in the way of what the coaches did. He wanted to give them their space. At the same time, it's not like he fully let go. When I'm back home, we still hit the field. But he knows that there's a time and place for everything."

Brett readily concedes that finding the balance between being a father and a coach has been challenging. But Brett, who survived a tough childhood in the Miami housing projects to earn a scholarship to the University of Miami, is not going to apologize for wanting the best from his son.


"One thing I had to learn was it's not my system, so I can't overrule them. If I do something that might be good but it's bad for him as far as not being in the coach's program, ... he's going to suffer," Brett Sr. said. "Ultimately, I paid the price for doing it too much. So what I told him was, 'Whatever the coaches say, you do what the coaches say.' I'm very adamant about my kids. I want to make sure they do their best at whatever. If it's truck driver, you're going to be the best truck driver."


Coming full circle

The Perriman family was in Chicago for the NFL draft, but if Breshad had gotten his way, he would have been anyplace else. He wanted to watch the first round from home, surrounded by family and friends, and not by television cameras, red carpets and unfamiliar faces. Breshad's parents worked on him for two weeks before he consented to go.

There were certainly perks to being there, such as the lavish food spread for guests. Breshad put a piece of chicken and some fruit on his plate, grabbed two Gatorades and that was that. He has always been a picky eater. Growing up, he insisted on having brown sugar and maple oatmeal nearly every meal.

Brett Jr., though, could sense his brother's anxiety level rise with each passing minute. The last thing anybody wanted was for Breshad to be that guy who fell in the draft, cameras chronicling his facial expressions after each selection.

When commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the Ravens had taken Perriman with the 26th overall pick, the wide receiver stood up and smiled broadly. He hugged his father and other family members, later calling the night a "dream come true."

"At first, it started off as a player-coach kind of deal. My dad pretty much taught Breshad everything he needed to know," Brett Jr. said. "But Breshad became a true student of the game. He dedicated himself. By the time college came around, it was more of a player-agent thing. It was more collaborative. Breshad has learned enough to know his own body, to know what works for him and what doesn't. What may work for my father, who is 5-9, may not work for Breshad at 6-2. But it's fun to watch my dad live vicariously through Breshad and be a proud father."

Less than 24 hours later, Breshad was rattling off all the roles that his dad played in his life: father, best friend, teacher, agent. He had one more to add to the list: motivator.

Breshad Perriman had always wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and make it to the NFL. Now that he had, he set a new goal.

"I want to make my own name," he said. "You want to be successful so you won't be labeled as Brett Perriman's son. They'll just know you as Breshad Perriman."