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Navy’s Malcolm Perry enters NFL scouting combine with new position — and a heavy heart

INDIANAPOLIS — Malcolm Perry considers himself fortunate, in a twisted kind of way. He is here in Indianapolis, just the second Navy football player ever invited to the NFL scouting combine, which means he does not have to be in Annapolis, where the Midshipmen are mourning a lost teammate.

Navy senior offensive lineman David Forney, 22, died late Thursday night after he was found unresponsive in his dormitory room, Naval Academy officials announced. No cause of death has been released. But as coach Ken Niumatalolo was leading his team and staff in prayer Monday to honor the Walkersville native, Perry was being measured and interviewed. With private services for Forney scheduled to be held at the Naval Academy on Tuesday, March 3, Perry was being asked to remember his starting left guard.

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A comment for every huddle — that’s what stuck out to Perry, how vocal Forney was, and not just before the snap. Every time the offensive line was about to get set, Forney would turn around and ask what the cadence was. Because, Perry recalled, “he knew it got on my nerves.” Those are the memories he’ll treasure, even as the suddenness of Forney’s passing has made them all the more bittersweet.

“I don’t think I slept that night" after learning he’d died, Perry said, his voice quavering. “A lot of my teammates didn’t. It’s been extremely difficult, and just leaning on each other, leaning on my teammates and the coaching staff and being together during that time really helped a lot. Fortunately, being here, getting my mind off things, I’m able to deal with that probably a little better than some of the guys back at school.”

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There are other questions Perry would rather answer. They’re difficult, too. After setting the Football Bowl Subdivision record for single-season rushing yards by a quarterback in 2019, Perry is at the combine as a wide receiver. He has just 22 career catches, most of them as a slotback in the Midshipmen’s signature triple-option attack, and none since 2018.

Perry said he’s training as a slot wide receiver because that’s where he feels most uncomfortable. He wants to be someone more versatile than that, a prospect just as capable as a running back or a returner. NFL officials don’t quite know what to make of him. “Every team’s different,” he said.

For a guide, Perry can turn to the last Navy quarterback who found his way to the NFL as a wide receiver. Keenan Reynolds, whom the Ravens took in the sixth round of the 2016 draft after he set an FBS record for career rushing yards by a quarterback, reached out to Perry after the Midshipmen’s win over Army in December. Whatever questions Perry has had about the predraft process, Reynolds, he said, has been there to help. Perry even went out to watch Reynolds in action, catching his XFL debut for the Seattle Dragons earlier this month in Washington.

Perry knows his professional future in football will have to look somewhat like Reynolds’. This is a week to prove he can run routes and catch passes, not drop back and throw them. But after less than just two months since his last start at quarterback, does Perry really see himself as a wide receiver yet?

“Ummm,” he said, “I’m working on it."

Wednesday’s intriguing prospects

Offensive linemen, running backs and special teams players will meet with reporters Wednesday. (Position in latest Baltimore Sun mock draft noted in parentheses.)

  • LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry III (No. 49)
  • Michigan center Cesar Ruiz (No. 50)
  • Louisiana Lafayette guard Robert Hunt (No. 52)
  • Clemson guard John Simpson (No. 56)
  • LSU guard Damien Lewis (No. 60)
  • Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz
  • Fresno State guard Netane Muti
  • Maryland running back Javon Leake
  • Maryland running back Anthony McFarland Jr.

TV schedule for on-field workouts

  • Thursday (quarterback, wide receiver, tight end): 4 to 11 p.m., NFL Network
  • Friday (offensive line, running back, special teams): 4 to 11 p.m., NFL Network
  • Saturday (defensive line, linebacker): 4 to 11 p.m., NFL Network
  • Sunday (defensive back): 4 to 11 p.m., NFL Network

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