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20 May 2008

Perrilloux in Town, Set for Fresh Start

By Al Muskewitz
Star Sports Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

JACKSONVILLE The most-anticipated transfer in Jacksonville State's Division I football history arrived in town Sunday night eager to make the most of what he's calling a fresh start.

Ryan Perrilloux wasn't promising to bring the Gamecocks a national championship though he said he'd love to give Jack Crowe one before he leaves out of appreciation for the faith the JSU coach has shown in him, just to lead the program and himself in a positive direction.

"It's a new beginning," Perrilloux told The Star Monday during an interview in the Coxwell Room of the JSU Fieldhouse. "It's an opportunity for me to start off with a clean slate, make new impressions and more or less be a guy who's accountable, dependable (and) responsible."

Those weren't exactly qualities outsiders would have associated with Perrilloux during his three productive but tumultuous years at LSU, especially as the background leading to his dismissal was continually rehashed over the last two weeks.

He came out of high school as the top quarterback prospect in the country, but trouble seemed to follow him throughout his time in Baton Rouge. Those close have told him a change of scenery would probably do him a world of good.

Perrilloux acknowledged things happened at LSU, but as a celebrated athlete he was never given the benefit of any doubt by the public. He declared he's never been arrested or even seen the inside of a police car, but that didn't stop the world from forming a negative impression of him.

The Gamecocks, and Crowe in particular, have been roundly criticized by various media outlets for signing the quarterback. JSU fans, meanwhile, are reserving judgment, knowing they have an exciting, experienced quarterback to lead a team that has had three straight 6-5 seasons since back-to-back trips to the NCAA playoffs.

Crowe said on the day Perrilloux officially signed with the Gamecocks "we're on the verge of a new day."

On Monday, the player greeted a reporter with a firm handshake and a respectful demeanor.

"I wasn't a bad person," he said. "The impression they have is the impression that's been put out there by the media. I've had things happen to me, but in my situation they don't care about none of that. I'm never right. I'm always wrong.

"They care about 'he missed class, there's no excuse for missing class.' I understand that and I take responsibility for missing class, but at the same time, I just would like to more or less see some sympathy. 'Look, the kid ain't all bad, he's no thug, he's no hoodlum out of the streets. He's a kid who has a life. He has a family. He has feelings as well.'

"I want to be a person who's known for doing positive and not all negative. I felt like at LSU that would've never been the case I would have always been known somewhere in the back of somebody's mind that he hasn't changed."

He hasn't gotten that reaction in the few days he's been at JSU. Crowe and University president Bill Meehan both were satisfied with the answers Perrilloux provided to some pretty tough questions when he visited the campus last week.

"Everyone I've met so far has said 'you're not anything like I've read about,'" Perrilloux said. "I'm just excited to be here in a new environment around people who really, really want me here and support me through this transition."

Perrilloux spent his full first day on campus touring his new environs, lining up housing and setting up an off-campus job that will keep him busy until camp starts. He plans to enroll in summer school June 3, but other programs are continuing to pursue him until he does, claiming he remains a free agent until he enrolls.

Most of the pre-arrival Perrilloux talk centered around the player's character. Monday was a day to learn about his athletic ability. He stopped by the football offices late in the afternoon with a copy of his high school highlight tape, which mesmerized the half dozen players and coaches including Crowe who watched it for the first time.

Recruiting analyst Max Emfinger called Perrilloux the best high school quarterback he had ever seen and said the quarterback will give the Gamecocks a chance to win every game they play.

His arrival already has created some buzz around the Ohio Valley Conference.

"They went from a really good player (in former quarterback Cedric Johnson) to possibly a great player," UT Martin coach Jason Simpson said. "They get my vote every year for preseason pick of the league, so obviously nothing will change my mind this year. I'm sure coach Crowe's got a great plan for him and they'll definitely be the team to beat in the coming season."

Eastern Illinois coach Bob Spoo knows a little bit about the impact a high-quality quarterback can make. He once coached a guy named Tony Romo, now a Pro Bowler with the Dallas Cowboys.

"You don't win it with one guy," Spoo said, "but if anything off the field doesn't happen and the kid can toe the mark ... I think they're a better football team because of it. They won (the OVC) the first two years and been close every other year; this puts them a little closer."

About Al Muskewitz

Al Muskewitz covers golf and Jacksonville State University sports teams for The Anniston Star.

See story at The Anniston Star's website: .

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