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How one walk-on leads to another



All summer long, I'm trying to figure out the last few spots on USF's football roster, so when I get a tentative roster as I did Thursday, I'm curious to see the names I haven't been able to already learn.

This time, there were two "new" names, in walk-ons Caleb Russell and Cameron Perkins. Russell played at Bradenton Southeast (I'll get to more on him in a bit) but I had trouble finding any record of Perkins, who was listed as playing at Apopka High. I wondered if this could be a typo, as the player directly above him, linebacker Marvin Peoples, also played at Apopka.

I talked to current Apopka coach Rick Darlington, who didn't recognize the name, then former coach Ty Parker, who couldn't recall a player by that name. When I'd asked Jim Leavitt earlier about the new players, he'd been a bit cryptic, only saying that Perkins had played at a junior college and I'd have to do some research. Searching through didn't yield a single reference to a player by that name.

So I called Caryn Baird in our research department, who's always a big help. I asked her to check how many people named Cameron Perkins had driver licenses in the state. There were only four, and only two under 30 years old. One was a teenager in Brooksville, but I found a better match in a 21-year-old in Pensacola. The address yielded a phone number, and sure enough, I'd found him.

Turns out, Perkins is a cousin of USF walk-on running back Shawn Cannon, who came in last year and redshirted during the 2006 season. The two played at rival high schools in Pensacola, Cannon at Tate and Perkins at Woodham, where incoming freshman Pat Richardson also attended. The two cousins were teammates in 2004 at Highland Community College in Kansas, but Perkins hadn't played since the spring of 2005, more than two years.

Cannon told me he'd asked Leavitt this spring if he had any dreams, and after Leavitt responded, Cannon said he had a cousin whose dream was to play Division I football. Was there any way Leavitt could find room for him as a walk-on at USF? All Leavitt would promise was a tryout, and Cannon called his cousin, who was taking classes at Tallahassee Community College.

Perkins worked out for coaches and was clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.49 seconds. He's 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, and Cannon said he's a great leaper, someone who can hold his own on the Bulls' roster. Perkins believes he has three years of eligiblility left. I've seen walk-ons earn scholarships and others gone in mere days, so it'll be interesting to see how Perkins' story develops.

-- Russell, the linebacker from Bradenton, barely registers in online searches. I'd talked to Southeast coach Paul Maechtle last week, checking on potential recruits, and he hadn't even come up. Reminded on Thursday, Maechtle talked about Russell with excitement. "Absolutely nobody knew about him," he said. "If you don't start as a junior these days, the colleges don't know who you are. Totally under the radar." Russell is 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, a "tall, rangy kid" who played defensive end at Southeast his sophomore and junior years. He blossomed as a senior, starting and finishing in the team's top three in tackles. Obviously he'll need to put on weight to be a college linebacker, but Maechtle likes his chances. It's the third player USF has gotten in the past year, joining receiver A.J. Love and defensive end David Fonua.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 11:33am]


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