Junior Rebel DT Peria Jerry wowed the Ole Miss coaches in the spring of 2006.
They used terms such as "dominating" and "unblockable" to describe his prowess on the football field.
A funny (not ha-ha funny) thing happened to the 300-pound wrecking ball in August leading up to the 2006 season. He severely hurt his foot and was rendered "half" of himself throughout the year. He didn't practice at all and played - in severe pain - sporadically.
In the offseason, Peria got his foot surgically repaired and, after a slow and patient rehab, is anxious to prove himself to Ole Miss fans.
"I've been doing a lot of conditioning this summer and am doing most of the drills, but I'm taking it slow, not taking any chances on hurting myself again," said Peria, no longer the shy freshman who dreaded interviews that he was in 2005. "I will be ready to go in August."
Peria said he's put on a little weight through the injury and several months of inactivity, but he's trimming down a little now and feels he'll be ready to roll when two-a-days start in early August.
To tell the story of where Peria is going, you have to talk about where he's been.
"2006 was very frustrating. It's not even explainable, I'm going to be honest. I'm not bragging but I don't think too many people could play through the pain I played through after the injury," he said. "A broken foot is tough, but I had to do what I could do for the team.
"I just want to be healthy so everyone can see I can produce and everyone can get what's been expected of me. I want to show I could have done a whole lot more last year if I was healthy. I don't put it all on my shoulders, but I think we would have had a much better year last year if I had been healthy. I think we could have gone to a bowl if I had been playing, so that was frustrating to me."
It was also frustrating that Peria could not practice from Monday-Friday but would play - some - on Saturday.
"I'm a beliver in practice-makes perfect," he explained. "I felt I could go out there without any practice and get some results, but not nearly the kind of results I could get if I were practicing."
Peria not only feels good about himself for 2007, he feels good about the whole Rebel defense.
"It all starts up front. If we are playing well, the back seven will be a lot more effective," he noted. "We have depth up front now. I mean, we will even have a rotation, something we didn't even come close to having last year. We won't have to play the whole game - we can just play hard and then take a rest and let another fresh body come in. That will make us all better.
"It also means that if someone does get nicked up, they don't have to play and they can heal quicker instead of reinjuring themselves. I wasn't going to heal last year anyway until I had surgery, so I might as well have played, but if you have depth you can let minor nicks heal up and come back healthy for the stretch run. Having depth helps everything."
Jerry thinks the DL group has major talent.
"We have Jeremy Garrett, Brandon Jenkins, Daverin Geralds and some young guys coming in at DT and we have depth at DE," he continued. "Marcus Tillman, he will make a big jump from last year, Greg Hardy and Daverin had great springs. Daverin is not just a body to put out there - he is going to be really good in time and he made giant strides in the spring. He can make plays."
As for himself, Peria is as confident as always.
"I feel really good about myeself. I'm healthy and I feel more positive about everything. I don't feel I can be blocked," he closed. "The coaches know what I can do, but the fans don't. I think I will show everyone this year what I'm all about.
"I don't have any fears in the back of my mind about injuries or anything. I just want to play and prove I can help my team."
You can write one thing down and take it to the bank.
Peria Jerry's health will be as big a factor in the results of the 2007 season as any aspect of the team.
If he stays healthy, look out. He hasn't proven it yet, but he IS that type of player.
Peria Jerry update -
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