So, if you missed it yesterday, Ryan Perrilloux was back in the news, at least so far as SB Nation is concerned, in the form of Ryan Collins' "How Ryan Perrilloux Disappeared Completely" longform piece for the Mothership.
Maybe it's appropriate post-National Signing Day. After all, Perrilloux is definitely up there with the clichéd stories of "super recruit goes wrong." For LSU fans, he's a cautionary tale up there with Cecil Collins. His feats might not be as legendary as "the Diesel" -- I know people that will still call Collins the best running back they've ever seen, Leonard Fournette or no Leonard Fournette -- but Perrilloux certainly accomplished more in his time in Baton Rouge.
Just a week ago, I argued that Perrilloux shouldn't be counted as a recruiting bust, and I still feel that way. No Ryan 11, no 2007 SEC title or BCS Championship. Something that Collins' certainly illustrated well is that Perrilloux showed us all that he had every ounce of the talent that people believed.
I'm hoping this won't sound like the typical ranting of a fan responding to an article that cast his team in a questionable light. This isn't to take shots at Collins' piece. He clearly had a lot of interest in finding out exactly what happened to Perrilloux, and finding somebody that's been far removed from the spotlight for some time isn't easy. Collins let Perrilloux tell his own story. The public, largely, knows about the fall from grace, but they don't know much about how it all affected the man himself. There's no LSU perspective, but most people know that already. The story was about Perrilloux. Collins let him tell that story from his own point of view. As Poseur put it on twitter, he gave Perrilloux the rope to hang himself.
And that, more than anything, was my big takeaway from the article. What hasn't changed about Perrilloux is that he just doesn't understand that his "disappearance" is entirely his own fault.
Let me offer a little background, and my own perspective on this story. I grew up in LaPlace, Louisiana. Perrilloux's hometown and the place his mother still resides in. Family, including my parents, still live there. Perrilloux's athletic career was well-followed, from little league (my younger brother competed against him in pee-wee football) through high school. We knew how good he was. On the high school field, he was a force of nature. Unstoppable. Three hundred yards passing, 200 rushing, either or both were possible when he stepped on the grass.
That River Parish area of Louisiana is certainly no stranger to having big-time athletes. Rondell Mealey, Ed Reed, Corey Webster, LaRon & Dawan Landry, Tyson Jackson and Quinn Johnson had all come from the surrounding area in previous years. East St. John High School right there in Reserve had, in Perrilloux's underclassmen years, sent defensive end Kirston Pittman to LSU, fellow end Vegas Franklin and running back Derron Thomas to Miami plus receiver Reggie Joseph to Colorado. But Perrilloux was different. He was the No. 1 quarterback in the country, and everybody knew that every school in the country wanted him. People used to joke that he could pick his college choice out of a hat, and they'd probably take him, no questions asked.
But the recruiting rumors about his college choice* weren't the only ones. Everybody knew about the infamous shooting incident mentioned in the Collins' piece.
But there was also talk that Perrilloux had arrived at ESJ after leaving nearby high school superpower John Curtis Christian over a dispute with legendary head coach J.T. Curtis. That he routinely disregarded and ignored his head coach, Larry Dauterive, who really could say little to a player that so routinely made the explosive play look simple. Who cares if your quarterback completely shrugged off the playcall if the result was still an 80-yard touchdown, right?
*Note: Many say that Perrilloux would have never come to LSU had Nick Saban stayed as the head coach, due to a lack of desire to live with Saban's discipline. As somebody who also covered Saban's program during these years, I've never believed it. For one, Saban, like any coach, has always had discipline limits for talented players. For another, Saban had a way of smoothing those problems over in recruiting. He still does -- see Rueben "Auburn logo tattoo" Foster.*
After Les Miles was hired and made his visit to the Perrilloux home, the coming switch of Ryan's commitment from Texas to LSU was one of the most open secrets in LaPlace. But the other rumors never really died down, and many wondered how that tenure in Baton Rouge would go.
And then there was the infamous "Jamarcus who?" comment -- which my former boss, then-Tiger Rag editor Matt DeVille, heard first hand, along with the "four Heismans" bit.
And then the "wrong place, wrong time" involvement in a counterfeiting case.
And the fake ID episode.
And the Varsity incident (and my, how the campus rumors went wild on that one).
Was there ever one huge screwup? No. But the little ones never seemed to stop. Perrilloux found himself at the "wrong place, wrong time" an awful lot. The kind of stuff that would make you scream "just stop doing stupid shit!"
Yeah, hindsight is 20/20, but do all of those collective incidents make Perrilloux look like the kind of kid that walks into an elite program and takes over? No, they don't.
Do I think that Les Miles and Jimbo Fisher told Perrilloux he'd have the chance to compete for the starting job his freshman year? Absolutely. Every top-end recruit gets told something along those lines. But the two guys he walked in behind? Jamarcus Russell and Matt Flynn were former five- and four-star recruits themselves. The team he walked into had dozens of future NFL players on it, including seven future first-round picks, including eventual No. 1 overall pick, Russell. But rather than see that as an incentive to raise his game, Perrilloux, apparently, sees it as a broken promise.
"Basically, what they're telling me is the quarterback situation is slim. JaMarcus struggled and you'll have a great opportunity to come in here and play." Perrilloux said. "I got in there, and it wasn't that. ‘Cause when I got here I never had an opportunity. I was on the scout team for two years. They didn't treat me like I was the No. 1 recruit in the country. They treated me like a guy they signed to see if he could play or not."
Tears shed after a national championship game, not of joy, but of sadness for a lack of playing time? LSU might have been a two-quarterback monster in 2007, but Flynn had the hot hand (four touchdown passes) against Ohio State and the coaches rode him. If it was that big of a problem, why, with the job his and his alone after Flynn's graduation, did Perrilloux then choose to act out? If the lack of opportunity bothered him, why did he piss it all away when it was as close as it would ever be? Personal problems? Okay. Had Miles and LSU not shown some capacity to be understanding at this point?
Make no mistake. Perrilloux had it all for the taking in 2008, and he let it go. Walk-on Andrew Hatch and redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee were absolutely no threat to unseat him for that starting job. What's more, the lack of quarterback depth after his dismissal was a huge contributor to 8-5 and 9-4 seasons under Lee and eventual recruit Jordan Jefferson, and two more years of quarterback issues only solved once Zach Mettenberger arrived.
But Perrilloux's ultimate undoing wasn't about acting out or red flags. In the end, he just couldn't foresee consequences. He didn't believe LSU would ever kick him off the team. Nobody would. He'd been told his whole life about the value of that golden arm. Consequences evaded him in high school.
But they came at LSU, and they escalated as his responsibilities did. The third-string redshirt freshman getting in trouble during the offseason gets an offseason suspension. The backup sophomore that saw playing time in 12 of 14 games missed two of them. The junior that was expected to take the reins of the offense, was eventually shown the door. Ryan Perrilloux was suspended three times in two years. That means he got a second, third, even a fourth chance. You'd be hard-pressed to find any other LSU player under Miles that has had more than one (no star player has received nearly as much coddling since -- see Mathieu, Tyrann).
There is an interesting point that the Collins piece does raise, however. Perrilloux might have very well been better off going to Texas. But it's not because of anything Les Miles or LSU did or didn't do. The area of LaPlace Perrilloux grew up in -- that house on Bluebird Street -- was hardly the safest. Bad influences are easy to find, and they know where to look when a potential superstar athlete is in their midst (and Ryan wouldn't be the first that didn't use his athletic gifts to escape the area). Baton Rouge was just 45 minutes away, so finding Perrilloux after he moved on to LSU wasn't that much more difficult. Austin is significantly farther. Maybe that distance might've forced Perrilloux to find a new circle and new habits.
Still, I'm kind of surprised that Perrilloux has any bitterness towards LSU or Miles. I've seen several quotes from him since his departure that indicated understanding of the situation and frustration at the opportunities wasted. There was never much talk about being misled to choose LSU over Texas, or "wrong place, wrong time," any sort of mistreatment really. He generally seemed to own up to what he'd done. I'm a little surprised to see him talk about it now.
A lot of LSU fans still hold some animosity towards Perrilloux. Both for the trouble he caused off the field and the trouble on the field his departure helped lead to. Not me. I remember the talent that he flashed, I'm grateful for the championships he helped deliver and hopeful that he can be more than just a cautionary tale.
But he doesn't do himself any favors when he points blame for his situation anywhere besides the one person that has always held control over Ryan Perrilloux's fate.