Malcolm Perry will watch this week’s NFL Draft from his family home in Clarksville, Tennessee, hoping to hear his name called.
After setting an NCAA single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 2,017 yards during his senior year at Navy, Perry will try to reinvent himself to start a pro career as a slot receiver.
Perry caught 22 passes in his Midshipmen career, but said, “I feel that’s where I transition best with my size and ability, and with a little work I can transition to it smoothly. Catching a ball comes naturally to me, but definitely needs some work.”
At the NFL combine in late February, Perry ran a 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds, and said he learned what he needs to work on.
“Coming out of the whole combine experience, I think I got what I needed out of it, and I also had a great time and had a chance to meet a lot of cool people,” he said.
Perry feels a couple of teams are interested, including the New England Patriots and New York Giants. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, an Annapolis High School graduate, maintains a very strong connection to the Naval Academy, where his father was a longtime assistant football coach.
Belichick’s former receivers and special teams coach, Joe Judge, is now the new head coach of the Giants.
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, whom both coaches obviously know, may have set the path for Perry. Edelman was a quarterback at Kent State, but switched to receiver, becoming a key target for Tom Brady in helping the Patriots win three Super Bowls.
Edelman was even named Super Bowl MVP two years ago against the Rams. Like Edelman, Perry is 5-foot-9.
Despite Perry’s small size, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo is high on his chances to make it in the NFL.
“He’s a great slot receiver; he’s got really good hands,” Niumatalolo said, adding that Perry “would be awesome as a return guy. He’s had a ton of long runs against really good football teams.”
Perry sprinted for a 52-yard touchdown run the only time he touched the ball in January’s East-West Shrine Bowl, an annual all-star game featuring prospects for the NFL draft.
“I think seeing his body of work against high-level competition should bode well for him,” Niumatalolo said. “I know teams that have met him, have come to realize he’s a special human being. With his drive and desire to succeed, I think his chances are really great.”
Quarterback Roger Staubach and running back Napoleon McCallum are the two most notable Navy graduates to play in the NFL, while long snapper Joe Cardona is still on the gridiron, winning two Super Bowls with the Patriots.
Perry would like to continue his playing days before beginning his naval career as a second lieutenant.