Przybylo: Humble Perine stays the same

OU running back Samaje Perine is close to history, but you'd never know it by his personality.

There’s nothing new to this story about Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine. That’s not a bad thing, either.

Perine, now at the end of his junior season, remains that same guy he was as a freshman, sophomore and at the beginning of this year.

But as the Sooners get ready to face Auburn in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in New Orleans, the ever humble Perine is going to be back in the limelight.

Despite missing nearly four full games with a pulled muscle, Perine is indeed knocking on the door of all-time career rushing mark with the Sooners.

He needed 1,057 yards this season. He’ll enter New Orleans with 974 for the year. He’s 83 yards away against the best defense the Sooners have seen since Sept. 17 vs. Ohio State.

And he still doesn’t care.

“No, I haven't thought about that since we started the season,” said Perine after OU’s Bedlam victory. That's really not what I play for. I just go out and do whatever I can to help my team win.”

It felt like a down year for Perine until you examine things more closely. He still averaged 5.4 yards per carry. He still had 11 rushing touchdowns. He was still a force as a blocker and in short yardage situations.

His quiet demeanor just gets lost in the shuffle when you have the outgoing personality of quarterback Baker Mayfield and the incredible breakout season of wide receiver Dede Westbrook.

Perine remains, as always, steady.

“It’s huge. Samaje is the best,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “That physical, strong power and being able to finish out games. It’s not just finishing out games. In the first series, he and Joe (Mixon) both have an ability to make plays. They have the power to go with the elusiveness and the pace in the hole. They have such good timing and vision to go with it. 

“It’s fun to see him get closer and closer to that record. Hoping we had another quarter back. We could have given it to him 15 more times. He might have been able to get it.”

Instead he’ll have to wait until Jan. 2 to see, and he’ll have to add about two more yards because of what he did at the end of OU’s 38-20 win against Oklahoma State to clinch the Big 12 championship.

Perine could have scored in the final seconds but opted to take a knee after getting the first down and not take it in the end zone.

If ever there was a play that epitomized what the bruising back from Pflugerville, Texas, is all about, it was that one even if he didn’t think anything of it.

“I mean what's the point of scoring? We're already up by two touchdowns,” said Perine after the game. “There's only a few seconds left so there's really no need to run up the score so I just did what I thought was the right thing to do.”

Perine has done the right thing in Norman probably 99 percent of the time. This next choice he has, well, there is no wrong answer.

Perine has been tight-lipped about whether he’ll return to OU for his senior season or will decide to enter the NFL Draft.

You can see both sides of the equation. Perine hasn’t been healthy during his time in Norman so maybe he’d like to try to go a full year and go out with a bang with his teammates as a senior.

Flip it, though, and you never know when that next carry will be his last. The wear-and-tear on his body has been incredible to witness in the last three seasons. Eventually, you just have this feeling it will catch up to him.

Stoops is always quick to say he wants his players to be informed when approaching the NFL Draft. But even he knows there are certain times when you say you’ve done enough, now go get that money.

“I’m forgiving for a guy when it’s the right time and I get it. I get all of it,” Stoops said. “I’m OK with that when it’s the right time for certain guys.

“When Adrian (Peterson) was going, I was like, ‘You need to go. I get that.’ Bless you. We appreciate what you’ve done. I even gave him the option of not playing in the Fiesta Bowl. He told me, ‘Coach, they told me I can play and I’m gonna play.’ That was him. That’s no surprise as you watch everything that he’s done.

“With certain guys, it’s the right time and I’m all for it.”

Only Perine knows if the time is now. No matter what, though, the decision won’t change who he is on the field or his personality off of it.

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