Perry and Brooks on the rise in the NFL
Story by Greg Abel ('92)
Not so long ago, JMU football could boast of three outstanding graduates grabbing headlines and NFL championships -- defensive end Charles Haley, wide receiver Gary Clark and place-kicker Scott Norwood.
Collectively, Haley, Clark and Norwood played in nine Super Bowls and won seven championship rings, five for Haley and two for Clark. With Haley's retirement prior to the 1997 season, however, the famed trio of Dukes is gone from the NFL. But on its heels a young group of talented Dukes is eager to continue the tradition of excellence.
Two 1996 JMU products may have lots of work to do before meriting cmparisons to Haley, Clark and Norwood, but have very bright futures. Keep an eye out for tight end Ed Perry of the Miami Dolphins and wide receiver Macey Brooks of the Dallas Cowboys as you surf NFL games on television this fall.
After setting JMU career records for receptions (113) and receiving yards (1,283) for a tight end, Perry was selected in the sixth round by the Dolphins in 1997. The 6 foot-5, 240-pound Richmond native quickly impressed coach Jimmy Johnson and his staff and earned a regular spot in Miami's offensive rotation.
His versatility added to his playing time. Ferry is the Dolphins' starting long snapper and has also played fullback. Last season, he started four games and caught 11 passes for 45 yards, including a touchdown. The touchdown catch came in a November game against the Buffalo Bills. Perry says he will forever remember the image of quarterback Dan Marino zipping the ball to his outstretched hands. "It was the best feeling you could ever have," he says.
Brooks was in line to be the second or third wide receiver for the Cowboys last year, but broke his right forearm during a preseason game. The injury ended his rookie season before it began, but Brooks has high hopes tor 1998.
At 6-foot5 and 215 pounds, brooks is tall, lean and muscular, a prototype of the modern NFL receiver. During his JMU career, the Hampton native set a single season school record for touchdown catches with 14 in 1996 and twice tied Clark's single game school record of three touchdown catches. He was also a regular in right field for three JMU baseball teams, including the 1995 squad that won the CAA regular season title and advanced to the NCAA South regional.
At one time, brooks thought baseball was his ticket to life as a professional athlete, but he is proud to be a Dallas Cowboy and hoping to help bring the team back to prominence after a difficult 1997 season.
"It's ridiculous to me how the media portrays the Dallas Cowboys and how they really are," Brooks says. "Every team has players that have made mistakes off the field. Whenever I have friends visit me, I make sure I introduce them to my teammates, and everyone is taken aback by how real and down to earth they are. I am excited to be playing here."
Of the transition from college to pro football, Perry comments that the biggest difference is in the attitude of the players and coaches. "It's a job now. I'm not out there on scholarship," he says. "You see guys that get cut and you might not know who is going to be active from one week to the next. I still love the game, but you've really got to work for your money."
Another recent JMU graduate with pro aspirations is punter/kicker Nelson Garner ('98). Garner ranked sixth in the nation in punting average at 43.8 yards per kick in 1997 and connected on 13 of 18 field goal attempts. Although he was not drafted by an NFL team, Garner was scouted by several and hopes to make it as a free agent after signing with the Baltimore Ravens in the spring.
Perhaps even more excitied than the players who make it to the big time are their parents, who have watched their sons realize the dream of every player who has taken the field. Brooks' father, Barry, says he can still hardly believe that his son plays for the Cowboys. "I just landed back to Earth a few months ago," he says.