When Brett Perriman was a teenager down in Miami, his buddies were all getting gold teeth. So Brett got one, too. It was a badge of honor, it meant you were down, hip, cool. “Some guys had three or four of ’em put in,” he recalled, “but I said nah, I’ll just take one. That’s enough for me.”
It might have been the last time Brett Perriman uttered those words.
Nah, I’ll just take one? Ha! Try “I’ll take all you got.” In football circles, particularly the huddle, Perriman is known as the guy who tells you that. Often. Loudly. Gimme the ball. He is not subtle. He is not coy. When you
wear a gold tooth, shave your head and play college football for the Miami Hurricanes, coy is not something you worry about.
“How many times does Brett tell Scott Mitchell he’s open?” someone asked Lomas Brown on Sunday.
“Every time,” Lomas said.
“What’s his technique?”
“He has no technique. He is clear and blunt. He says, ‘Hey, throw me the ball.’ “
Well. That’s clear and blunt.
This is not a bad thing, by the way. Especially not on days like Sunday, when Perriman’s tenacity led to 10 catches, 125 yards and the biggest play of the game, a diving, third-down, 37-yard snatch that landed the Lions at Tampa Bay’s 1 and led to the winning touchdown. It was the kind of circus catch Perriman was known for in college — but there, he landed on grass. Here, in the AstroTurfed Silverdome, diving is more precarious.
“I admit, I said to myself a couple times on that play, ‘Do I really want to dive? Should I dive? Can I dive?’ ” Perriman said. “Sometimes you land on this turf and all your skin comes off.”
Moore and Perriman: Lions’ Fab Two
He dove anyhow — and kept his skin on — partly because he is that kind of player and partly because he is involved in the greatest receiver rivalry in the NFL right now and doesn’t want to give an inch. Oh, yes. You read correctly. The greatest receiver rivalry is taking place on a team with a 4-6 record and a defense that sometimes does its best to keep the offense off the field.
We’re talking Perriman and Herman Moore, who are averaging, together, about 14 catches and 188 yards a game. Moore already has more than 1,000 yards
for the season, and Perriman likely will break that mark by Thanksgiving. Both could catch more than 100 passes. Moore, with nine receptions Sunday, leads their race statistically. But only by a bit.
“Hey, he’s the first choice, he’s the No. 1 draft pick, and he’s so tall, Scott almost naturally looks to him,” Perriman said, sounding like Ringo explaining why Paul got to sing lead all the time. “Herman even looks more like a receiver, he’s so big and all.
“Me, I’m just a normal-looking guy. I’m 5-10. When people see Herman, they say, ‘You’re Herman Moore.’ When they see me they say, ‘You’re not Perriman. I saw Perriman last week. He’s 6-foot-1.’ “
He laughed and waved a hand. If he sounds jealous, he isn’t. On the contrary, Perriman, one of the NFL’s most durable receivers, is used to this second-banana act. In college, he played alongside Michael Irvin — now the Cowboys’ star receiver and one of the best pass catchers Miami ever produced.
“Brett had to learn to be patient down there,” recalled Bennie Blades, also at Miami during that period. “And he has to be patient up here.”
Which is why you want to celebrate days like Sunday, when his patience pays off. Six of the times Perriman caught the ball, he got a first down. He also pulled off the best acting job I have seen in a long time, on a fake-reverse from Barry Sanders.
This was beautiful. Sanders pretended to put the ball in Perriman’s gut, and Perriman made such a believable move that not only did the reporters in the press box think he had the ball, so did the Tampa Bay defenders.
“I looked up and they were all coming with me,” Perriman said. “I was like, ‘Why are y’all following me? Go after Barry. He’s got it!’ “
Instead, Sanders ran 55 yards untouched to the end zone. Perriman was a huge part of that — without the ball.
How about that?
Jumping Jack Flash, catch a pass, pass, pass
After Sunday’s game, Perriman pulled on a pair of mauve pants and a multicolored top. He wore a gold watch on one wrist, a gold band on the other, and a gem-studded “NFL” pendant around his neck. It is a mark of how likable Perriman is that this outfit, on him, did not seem gaudy.
“There’s a natural competition between us,” Moore admitted, smiling over at his catch-mate. “But the truth is, he makes it easier for me. And I make it easier for him.”
Or, as Perriman said: “Herman can catch 90,000 passes — as long as I get 80,000.”
Let’s give credit where it’s due. The Lions might be the most aggravating team ever to walk the Earth, but their offensive weapons — Sanders, Mitchell,
Moore and Perriman — are having a damn good season. It makes you wonder what this team could be if it ever played both sides of the ball simultaneously.
As Perriman readied to leave, a reporter asked about a first-quarter catch, where Brett leapt and got drilled by the defender. Perriman explained the details, then paused.
“You know, I jumped pretty high for that,” he mused, as if making a note to himself. “I gotta remind Scott of that next game.”
“Live Albom IV,” the latest collection by the nation’s No. 1 sports columnist, is on sale for $12.95 in bookstores or by phone (1-313-962-6657 or 1-800-245-5082). Mitch will sign copies of his “Live Albom” series 6:30-7:30 Thursday night at Waldenbooks, 16980 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe.