Perkins perseveres

SEATTLE - It hasn't happened during practice or games, but it doesn't stop Ryan Perkins from pondering the possibilities. And a daily regimen of anti-inflammatories, pain relievers and ice is a constant reminder of the sacrifices Perkins makes to live his dream. At some point though, he may not have that choice.

And it wasn't that long ago that his doctors didn't even give him a choice. "The goal was to get back walking around and running," Perkins said this week, talking about his twice-repaired right knee, damaged by an injury sustained during the 2006 Spring Game. "They never said kicking. I told them that if I can pretend that I can run, I'm going to pretend that I can kick. And last year we did it."

Perkins did a lot more than pretend; he hit 15 of 20 tries, with a long of 45 yards. Against Oregon, he nailed a 42-yarder with his surgeon watching. "We had a nice moment there," Perkins said with a smile. "It was great."

Recently, Perkins hit a 53-yarder in practice. "I kicked a pretty far one," he said. "Everyone told me it was 53 yards. Sometimes you get to the point where you just look at where the hash is and you get a mental picture. And by the end of it you get guys telling you it was a 53-yarder."

A year ago in fall camp, Perkins would have been lucky to get a chance at a 40-yard kick. "I was really bad off," he said. "I didn't kick the ball before fall camp. Now I can hit the 50's. It's not a matter of going through trials anymore."

"He's one of the more courageous guys I've been around," added UW Head Coach Tyrone Willingham.

Just because the strength is back doesn't mean Perkins doesn't go through moments in his day that are downright debilitating. He will walk down the street and out of nowhere his knee just locks up. "I might have to shake it really fast for five minutes to get it to pop and then I can walk again," he said. "At times it can be flat-out ridiculous to handle."

Add to that the medication and icing needed to keep down the chronic swelling of his knee, and Perkins has a full-time job just being able to maintain a situation where he can be counted on to make a kick that might spell the difference between winning and losing. Ironically, Perkins has to keep his leg really loose during practice, but can't kick a lot. "I have to do low reps," he said. "Ten or 15 (kicks) and I'm ready to go in the game. That's all I've got in the tank."

Drowning out the demons out of his head has proven to be a difficult task for Perkins. "I've thought about situations where something might happen, and you just can't think about it," he said. "You have to put it out of your head. I'm just going to let my leg swing and it's going to do what it's going to do." Perkins added that so far his knee has responded well to treatment and that it has not seized up on him at practice. "We've kicked a lot in this camp and it hasn't locked up yet," he said.

For every kick Perkins attempts, the damage continues to mount. "There's a lot of stress I'm putting on a knee that's been surgically repaired twice," he said. "There will come a point where I've damaged it enough where I have to hang up the boots."

It begs the question; how long will Perkins be able to keep kicking? "That's a decision that's most likely going to be made between me and the coaches and the doctors," Perkins said. "There's only so much I can do until the doctors say that's it."

But if he gets the go-ahead to finish out his eligibility, no one is going to stand in the way of Perkins and his qwest to fulfill a dream. "You only get one shot at this," he said. "Not a lot of guys can say they kicked for the Huskies in Husky Stadium - especially local guys like me.

"You've got to live it up while you can do it."

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