- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

GREENSBORO, Ga. — Maryland running back Bruce Perry is ready to be rediscovered. The 2001 ACC offensive player of the year plans to show the award wasn’t a fluke.

“People may have forgotten me. That’s all right. I determine what happens,” Perry said yesterday during the ACC’s media event. “I have to focus on myself to get back to 2001. You can use that as motivation, but what people think about me is irrelevant.”

When practice opens Aug. 4, Perry will be the offensive focus even though he only gained 341 yards during an injury-ridden 2002 that saw the Terrapins score a team-record 451 points. Returning senior quarterback Scott McBrien will find plenty of downfield mismatches behind three- and four-wide receiver sets, with the tight end also becoming a target, but the centerpiece of the Terps media guide features Perry.

Using a workout regimen that began at 5:30 a.m., Perry gained 15 pounds over the offseason to reach 205 and now benches 355 pounds. He wants to prove he’s no longer just a quick back who covers 40 yards in a blistering 4.28 seconds by running up the middle.

“I don’t look to make moves,” he said. “I get pleasure out of running over people.”

And proving himself once again. It seems far longer than 19 months since he became the first nonsenior and Terp to win the conference’s offensive player award with 1,242 yards, the fourth most in Maryland history.

A preseason groin injury sidelined Perry six games last year. He then suffered a sprained shoulder on his first play — a 19-yard run. Perry said he spent too much time rehabbing his injuries and not enough on conditioning, leaving him vulnerable.

“It was sometimes frustrating. It mentally drains you. It’s a slow process,” Perry said. “I’m an athlete. I belong on the field. It made me build character. I saw things I never saw before. Now I’m into learning coverages.”

With Chris Downs en route to becoming first-team All-ACC with 1,154 yards and 15 touchdowns and freshman Josh Allen gaining 391, Perry’s return was overshadowed. Still, he steadily progressed. Perry led Maryland’s 30-3 victory over Tennessee in the Peach Bowl with 50 yards on 15 carries. He gained 95 yards on 10 carries at Virginia, including a 39-yard run.

“I was just due,” Perry said of the late-season finish. “I had been through so much.”

Watching from the sideline for the first time, Perry studied coverages. He learned to split gaps in coverage to compensate for the absent speed that normally brought him long gains. Perry now returns as a more complete back who won’t let defenses focus on him.

“I’m ready to prove I’m not just a speed back,” he said. “I want to carry 30 times. I want to catch the ball. I’m a good receiver. I like people not to know what I’m going to do.”

Perry, 22, recently added a third tattoo with the dates of five female relatives, including his 10-month-old daughter Kayla, whose birth resulted in a growing maturity that has him mentoring younger players. He sidestepped questions about a possible NFL career but said becoming a father has him completing a criminology degree in hopes of becoming an FBI agent. Perry’s father is a firefighter, and his mother is an FBI technician, so he’s not afraid of a dangerous career. Indeed, the thought of arresting “plenty of bad guys” makes a law enforcement career alluring.

“Just the danger,” Perry said. “I’ve been associated with danger playing football and two parents having dangerous jobs. Maybe I’ll continue the legacy.”

Meanwhile, Perry has a chance to become Maryland’s second-leading career rusher by replicating 2001. He ranks 11th with 1,778 yards but needs only 29 yards to enter the top 10 and 1,539 yards to surpass Charlie Wysocki (3,317) for second behind Lamont Jordan (4,147).

“Personal marks, that’s a bonus,” he said.

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