Perine deals with growing attention

OU freshman running back maintains humility despite recognition

Things have changed rather abruptly for Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine.

The freshman was always popular in his hometown of Pflugerville, but when he went back home last weekend, he took hundreds of pictures with his new, ever-growing horde of fans.

He was also an unassuming freshman, who just seemed to want to go about his business, however painful it might have been for the defensive players. Now, he’s a 25-to-1 contender for the Heisman Trophy after posting the fourth-best single rushing game by a freshman.

He’s a little bit of a changed man, even if he is still as modest as ever.

“I try to block it out as much as possible,” Perine said of the increased attention. “Obviously, I’m gonna see a few things, but I don’t let it get into my head. I keep to myself as much as I can.”

He’s prepared for another 30-carry game, even though he finally admitted that he needed a little bit of a rest. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Perine came bouncing on to the team bus like he hadn’t touched the ball after the West Virginia game.

“It's awesome to see someone, you know, trying to bulldoze people like the offensive line's doing, like the tight ends are doing, like the fullbacks are doing,” Oklahoma fullback Aaron Ripkowski said. “It's cool to see that somebody has that same personality.”

During the bye week, Perine went home to watch his alma mater, Hendrickson, remain unbeaten in conference play. In between all the pictures he had to take with cheerleaders, the band, young children and even a few older children, he caught a few of his ‘little running back’ Tazh Maloy score a few touchdowns.

He watched his former and future teammate P.J. Mbanasor, a defensive back who has committed Oklahoma for the 2015 season.

If he had wanted to hide, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

“I don’t think it would’ve mattered,” Perine said. “Once they saw my face, people started coming around. I wasn’t expecting as many pictures, but I can’t say no to fans.”

He’s back on the field now though, his eyes set on TCU with starting running back Keith Ford still likely out with an injury.

As the Big 12 leader in rushing yards, Perine is ready for what the talented Horned Frogs’ front seven will bring – to the line of scrimmage.

When asked about running against TCU, Perine said it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of one-on-one matchups on the outside.

He truly embodies his nickname.

Calm off the field, Perine transforms into this dominant – almost unstoppable – force on the field, built on doing the right thing for his world – err team. Like the leader of the Autobots, he cares little about himself. He does everything for the greater good, regardless of the wear on his body.

He thinks, even in his great power, that he is the just another football player.

The name Optimus Perine really fits perfectly on so many levels, especially in his humble response to earning a nickname that compares him to the intergalactic hero.

“I would be just as happy to be called Samaje,” Perine said with a smile.


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