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February 28, 2012

Kent Perkins: The quiet competitor

Dallas Lake Highlands offensive tackle Kent Perkins is not one for many words. He rarely picks up his phone, he often does not return text messages and in a day and age when Twitter and Facebook seem to rule the world, Perkins pretty much stays away.

All that has not stopped him from being one of the most highly sought after recruits in the 2013 class, attracting attention from the premiere college football programs in the country. He is currently ranked No. 25 in the Rivals100 and No. 3 in the Lone Star Recruiting's 2013 Top 100. Ask those around Lake Highlands about him and words such as soft spoken, quiet, and even-keeled quickly surface, but not quite as often as the word "special."

At 6-6 and 285 pounds, Perkins tends to stand out, and ever since he began playing football in the seventh grade, people have figured out quickly that Kent Perkins was a special talent. It certainly did not take long for his high school coaches to figure it out.

"As an eighth grader playing football at Lake Highlands Junior High, I felt sorry for the little kids he was having to play against. That's the basic truth," Lake Highlands head coach Scott Smith said. "As an eighth grader he was probably a little bit bigger than he is now because he had a lot more baby weight on him. He was about 6-6, maybe 315-320. So he was stepping out on that field playing football against a bunch of eighth graders. There aren't a lot of eighth graders that are that size. It was a humorous deal.

"Basically what the eighth grade coach would do is walk Kent out for the coin flip and from that point the game was pretty much over. You can imagine what that looked like with the officials looking up to him and three other eighth graders from the other team looking at him."

Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Russell Urbantke also got his first glimpse of the mammoth tackle in the eighth grade and quickly became the biggest cheerleader of the squad.

"The eighth graders play on Tuesday night down at the stadium here and when I watched him as an eighth grader I made sure I was there every Tuesday night to ensure he was going to be at Lake Highlands as a freshman," Urbantke said. "When I saw him as an eighth grader I was like 'Oh goodness, we're going to have us one here.'"

Coach Urbantke quickly found out just how right he was. While Perkins did not start as a freshman, he did rotate in with a senior along the offensive front. Make no mistake though - Perkins did not get the opportunity to play varsity or standout simply because he was big.

"Actually, as a seventh and eighth grader and even as a ninth grader, he played basketball. And to see a body that large run up and down the court at the pace and quickness he was doing it you knew there were some skills there that the average guy doesn't have," coach Smith said. "So coming in as a freshman we knew that."

They also knew they really did not have a choice, and a challenge would be a very good thing.

"We knew we wanted him to have the opportunity to compete against guys that maybe weren't physically bigger than him but were maybe smarter in the game or more advanced in their techniques and skills and probably physically stronger than him," Smith said. "So when he lined up in practice against them he had to really challenge himself to get better. As the year went on you saw those things start to develop and saw his mindset changing a little."

As a sophomore, Perkins stepped into a starting role at right tackle, where college recruiters quickly took notice. Since then he has been a mainstay as the anchor on the right side of the offensive line. Of course, with his talents, left tackle is certainly not out of the question.

"We're a spread option team and everyone who plays us knows we run to the right 70-percent of the time," coach Urbantke said. "When he moved into a starting position the guy we had at left tackle was a returning starter, and we're right handed dominated and we run the ball 65 - 70-percent of the time and it's to the right side. And when we run left we're running counter left and we're pulling him. That's the reason he's been on the right side. I haven't ever moved him back because we've had a right-handed quarterback that when we run option we liked to pitch it with his right hand."

While he has been a starter the last two years, Perkins has not settled. Instead, he has pushed himself to become better in all aspects of the game. In fact, this offseason he has a laundry list of tweaks and improvements he is working to master.

"Football-wise I've been working on run blocking, pass protection, cutting linebackers, taking that right angle, getting my stamina up so I can last through the fourth quarter … stuff like that," Perkins said.

As a junior, coaches saw the "soft-spoken, quiet" Perkins also step up as more of a leader, and get a little nastier on the field.

"Last year I started seeing the leadership come out in him," coach Urbantke said. "Being a sophomore and a freshman he would kind of sit back. He still got in there and mixed it up but his leadership was the big deal that came along last year as a junior. And his pass pro, just getting comfortable. We don't throw the ball a ton but we're about 60-40 and he played some of the better defensive ends against the Skyline's and he didn't give up a sack last year."

"I'm not sure he'll ever be that loud outspoken guy," coach Smith said. "He'll be the guy who shows up every day and challenges everyone on the field in the weight room and in the classroom to be the best he can be."

Talent, potential, and work ethic have served him well. At a recent powerlifting meet, Perkins bench pressed 385 pounds. He has been wrestling at 285 pounds to improve his technique, stamina, and flexibility. He has continued to push himself each year and is not satisfied with the status quo. And there is plenty of potential left to be tapped into with Perkins.

Of course all the football talent in the world means very little if things are not taken care of off the field. Perkins has handled business on all fronts.

"He's very coachable, very respectful, never been in trouble, never been a grade problem. He's very reliable," coach Urbantke said. "He's going to do exactly what I ask of him and that's been the aspect of Kent. You don't have to worry about his behavior anywhere. He's huge, he's fast, he's strong, but just to go along with his personality he's a great student athlete. He's going to be a good one."

The potential for greatness is certainly there and on Monday at 1 p.m., Perkins made a call to Austin, Texas to let area recruiter Darrell Wyatt, offensive line coach Stacy Searels, head coach [/db]Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorn coaching staff know he was ready to become a Longhorn.

It's easy to imagine the scene in the coaches' office as Perkins, who hopes to study engineering at Texas, told them the good news.

"I heard [coach Searels] was jumping up and down and things like that," Perkins said.

And who can blame him? Monday was not only a special day for Perkins and his family, but also for Texas.

"He's a special kid and special football player and special athlete," coach Smith said. "It's not one of those things you see every day."


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