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Navy's Malcolm Perry says he's 'ready to get the ball rolling' with the Dolphins

Thanks to a directive issued last year by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, Navy's Malcolm Perry (10) will have a chance to play for the Miami Dolphins this year.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By BILL WAGNER | The Capital | Published: April 27, 2020

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — Former Navy football standout Malcolm Perry conducted a Zoom conference call with members of the media covering the Miami Dolphins on Saturday night.

Miami selected Perry in the seventh round of the NFL Draft using a pick previously acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs. The record-setting Navy quarterback was taken with the 246th overall selection in the three-day draft.

It went down to the wire for Perry as there were only nine more remaining picks, all of which were compensatory. Had the American Athletic Conference 2019 Offensive Player of the Year not been drafted, he would have been quickly signed as a priority free agent as several teams had already reached out about going that route.

Half a dozen reporters participated in the conference call with Perry that was organized by the Miami media relations department. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound speedster was initially asked if the Dolphins had mentioned what position he will be asked to play.

“I haven’t heard much. I’m just going in with an open mind, positive attitude and ready to play wherever they choose to put me,” said Perry, who spoke briefly with Miami general manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores after being chosen just before 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Perry practiced at wide receiver during the East-West Shrine Bowl week and worked out with that position group at the NFL Combine. However, most NFL executives envision the versatile prospect as a multi-positional type of player, capable of lining up in the backfield in certain packages and possibly at quarterback in Wildcat formation.

“I played wide receiver at the combine. That’s the position I’ve been training for the whole time, the position I’ve been projected to play at the next level,” Perry said. “My skills kind of translate to that position pretty well. I have a willingness and ability to play other positions as well.”

Perry noted he’s always “felt pretty natural at running back” and has put considerable effort into learning how to become a slot receiver because “I just wanted to be as good as I could at my weakest position transition.”

Perry played slotback and quarterback at Navy, excelling at both while amassing 4,359 career rushing yards. That total ranks second in program history behind Keenan Reynolds (4,559), a quarterback who went on to play slot receiver in the NFL and XFL.

As a senior, Perry set the Football Bowl Subdivision record with 2,017 rushing yards and also scored 21 touchdowns. He was asked during the conference call about that playmaking ability as a ballcarrier.

“Just the ability to help my team by getting some yards and, hopefully, scoring touchdowns. That’s the goal every time I touch the ball,” Perry said. “Moving on to the next level, I have to keep the same attitude of working hard and doing whatever I can to help the team. I’m ready to get the ball rolling.”

Perry was asked about his ability to play special teams and responded that he returned kickoffs in games and practiced fielding punts while at Navy. In fact, Perry averaged 24.6 yards on 20 kickoff returns as a sophomore and junior.

“I feel like that’s definitely going to be a big role for me, somewhere I’ll have to shine in order to get into this league,” Perry said. “It’s definitely something I’ve been practicing; I still need to get better at playing special teams.”

Perry revealed he considered the prospect of playing professional football midway through his record-breaking senior season. Apparently, as the statistics continued to pile up, the NFL scouts showed increased interest.

“I first started thinking the NFL was a possibility somewhere in my senior season. I was having a good year and had a feeling I might get a shot,” he said.

Perry will be allowed to pursue an NFL career immediately after graduation thanks to a policy change initiated by President Donald Trump. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper formally issued the new guidelines in November, signing an order that allowed service academy graduates to apply for a waiver delaying their military commitment in order to play pro sports.

Esper’s order requires athletes under contract to a professional franchise to gain approval from the defense secretary. Individuals approved for the policy would not be commissioned as officers until their playing careers concluded.

Athletes allowed to pursue pro sports must eventually fulfill their five-year military obligation or repay the government the cost of their college education.

A Dolphins beat reporter asked Perry about the policy change and being able to defer his active duty commitment.

“It means the world. As a kid growing up, this is a dream come true. Everything unfolded in a very fortunate sequence for me with the rule being changed,” he said. “I know a lot of guys I played with in the past who didn’t get this opportunity who definitely had the talent. It means a lot to be in this position. I’m very fortunate and grateful.”

Perry explained to the Dolphins media contingent that he will eventually be commissioned as a Marine Corps officer. He selected Marine Corps Ground and would be sent to the Basic School in Quantico, Virginia if the NFL does not work out.

When asked what NFL teams he heard from the most during the pre-draft process, Perry said the New England Patriots “were probably at the top.” Legendary head coach Bill Belichick has a lifelong connection to the Navy football program since his father, Steve, served as an assistant under seven different head coaches from 1956 through 1989.

“There’s a big tie between the Navy and Coach Belichick. I talked to him a number of times. They probably showed the most interest,” Perry said. Perry acknowledged he did not hear from the Dolphins during the months leading up to the NFL Draft. However, he had a supporter within the organization as former Navy fullbacks coach Mike Judge is entering his fourth season as a quality control coach for the Dolphins.

Judge and Miami wide receivers coach Josh Grizzard were part of the staff for the East-West Shrine Bowl, during which Perry ripped off a 52-yard touchdown run after taking a shotgun snap as a quarterback and faking an option pitch to the tailback.


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Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry shakes off the final Air Force tackler on his way to the end zone during a game at Annapolis, Md., in October, 2019. Perry was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL draft.
JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES