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Dartmouth’s Perry is heard first, then something to see

  • Dartmouth College defensive lineman Jackson Perry watches a Sept. 24, 2019, practice on Memorial Field along with his position coach, Duane Brooks. The fifth-year senior leads the Big Green against Yale for homecoming on Saturday. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College defensive lineman Jackson Perry chats with Big Green coach Buddy Teevens after suffering a minor injury during a Sept. 10, 2019, practice on Memorial Field. The fifth-year senior is one of the team's best players and earned All-Ivy League honors last season. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College defensive lineman Jackson Perry pulls one a rope to move a weighted sled during March 29, 2018, conditioning drills on Memorial Field. The fifth-year senior, a Las Vegas native who played at national powerhouse Bishop Gorman High, leads the Big Green against visiting Yale on Saturday. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College defensive lineman Jackson Perry, left, battles teammate Gage Guerra during a Sept. 16, 2015, practice on Memorial Field. Perry is a dominant force in the middle of the Big Green defense. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College defensive lineman Jackson Perry shouts during an Oct. 4, 2017 practice on the Blackman Fields. Known for his vocal presence, the fifth-year senior is a thorn in his teammates' side during practice and that of opponents during games. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »

  • Jackson Perry listens to a teammate on the sidelines during Dartmouth College football practice on Oct. 9, 2019. The senior defensive lineman is one of the best to play his position for the Big Green in recent history and leads them against visiting Yale on Saturday for an Ivy League game at Memorial Field. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/11/2019 10:51:27 PM
Modified: 10/11/2019 10:51:13 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College football coach Buddy Teevens likes to say that he wants players who are wild men on the field and gentlemen off of it. On his current team, which hosts Yale on Saturday in an Ivy League battle of 3-0 sides, the coach may have no more exact of an example than senior Jackson Perry.

The defensive lineman isn’t the Big Green’s biggest or fastest player, but he’s certainly its loudest. For five years, the Las Vegas native has bellowed and brayed during practices and before games. His piercing voice features both volume and an odd timbre, something that calls to mind an oxymoronic term like “deep screech.”

“He’s an acquired taste, and you have to give it back to him, but he’s a good guy,” said guard Zach Sammartino, also a fifth-year senior. “His voice finds its way to you anywhere across the field.”

Perry began playing football when he was 4, sneaking onto the field during the practices and games for a team of Las Vegas 8-year-olds coached by his father and uncle. Although not Catholic, he and his parents chose Bishop Gorman High because its football program was a state power headed for a national title during Perry’s senior year.

The teenager took official visits to UCLA, Nebraska, Harvard, Dartmouth and Vanderbilt and initially committed to the latter before switching to the Big Green in a recruiting coup. Perry played in eight games as a freshman during Dartmouth’s three-way tie for the Ivy League title before a substantial series of challenges arose.

First, Perry was found guilty of plagiarism and suspended for an academic term. He said the decision was overturned after he and his parents successfully appealed to the college’s vice provost, but he was left disillusioned, depressed and withdrawn.

“It was one sentence in a 15-page paper on working memory,” said Perry, noting that his grades now are higher than they were in high school. “The professor said I was incapable of writing what I wrote. It made me say, ‘If you don’t believe I can do something, watch me do it.’ And now I’m going to graduate after this term.”

Said defensive line coach Duane Brooks: “When he came in and told me what they had said about him, he cried for an hour. He’s a guy who would never lie and his pride was crushed, but he fought through it, and it was amazing.”

Perry’s path became even more difficult during Dartmouth’s 2016 season opener against New Hampshire. He sacked the Wildcats’ quarterback during the visitors’ second play from scrimmage but realized afterward something was seriously wrong. He’d suffered a knee injury that would require surgery and sideline him for the rest of the season.

“I was praying we could get off the field after third down because I could barely get into my stance,” Perry said.

After a year of rehabilitation, Perry returned to action for his third season and this time lasted four games before re-injuring his knee. An arthroscopic procedure kept him out until the campaign’s finale and left him with little cushioning between where his upper and lower leg bones meet at the joint.

“Sweet Jesus,” Perry muttered upon attempting to rise from his chair after a news conference following the Colgate game two weeks ago. “I’m an old man. Might as well have a couple of kids in the stands.”

Despite his complaints, Perry, at 6-feet-2 and 280 pounds, possesses a rare mix of power and agility that allows him to play up and down the defensive line. One snap might see him playing against the center, another against a tackle or tight end. Double-teams have been a way of life for several seasons, but they only open pursuit lanes for his teammates. NFL scouts regularly watch Perry during practices.

“He can throw people around, and you can’t knock him off his feet,” said Brooks, who’s in his 31st year coaching and describes Perry as perhaps the best player he’s ever tutored. “He’s unique.”

Sammartino has battled Perry much of that time in practice. Sammartino said he recognized his classmate’s talents and attitude right away and recalled that the freshman was part of an epic goal-line stand at Harvard that season.

“He can make himself skinny to slide past one guy, or he can come straight at you and push you into the backfield,” Sammartino said. “He’s as strong as anyone on the field.”

Perry is notorious for his game-day hype sessions, which begin almost the minute he slides back from the table after the pregame meal. He puts on his headphones and starts singing in his distinctive tone. Sammartino said riding in an elevator with Perry in this state is an experience not easily forgotten.

“He starts screaming at the top of his lungs, and he doesn’t stop until game time,” Sammartino said. “When you first know him, it’s really annoying, but that’s how he gets ready, and if he keeps playing the way he does, no one’s going to complain too much about it.”

Perry said he also did this during high school, using his parents’ home speaker system and driving his younger sister, Nina, out of the house. He likes to start with “something very mellow” like Beyonce, The Weeknd or Daniel Caesar before progressing to the likes of Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Drake. The final, angry stage features artists like Lil Wayne, DMX and Ludacris.

“It should make you feel physically violent,” Perry said with relish. “I want the guy across from me to be afraid of me during the game.”

A conversation with Perry away from football can be disconcerting to those familiar with his flip side. Charming, open and thoughtful, he chats about his job as a server at a downtown Hanover pub and how his gridiron outbursts are different from what he insists is his introverted, emotional self.

“On the field, me screaming and yelling has nothing to do with how I actually feel,” Perry said. “There’s a switch you flip when you step on the field to be the meanest and nastiest person there is. But when you leave it, you should be the nice, well-mannered, positive person that you are.”

Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, who occasionally dials Perry down a notch or two with a stern glance, said No. 5’s football antics work because he plays so hard and well. His off-field personality might serve him well in politics or business, the coach said.

“He’s never met a stranger, and he’s a leader and a very intelligent guy,” Teevens said. “He’s energetic and he’s tough, to have come back from what he’s come back from.”

Perry’s asked what strikes him most about his Dartmouth days as they dwindle.

“That I did it,” he said. “Life isn’t easy, but it’s not the challenges. It’s how you respond.”

In Perry’s case, that’s loudly. And with a smile to follow later.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.




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