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Samaje Perine Q&A
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Freshman Running Back talks football
When Samaje Perine formally introduced himself to the college football world back in September by rushing for 242 yards and four touchdowns in Oklahomaís 45-33 road win at West Virginia, he also forged his name alongside those of former Sooner running back greats Greg Pruitt, Adrian Peterson, Steve Owens, Billy Sims, DeMarco Murray and Joe Washington.
After all, itís not every day that a true freshman goes for 200-plus yards or scores four TDs or puts a football team on his back and carries it to victory. Those types of accomplishments are rare at any level and normally reserved for more established players like those on the aforementioned list of OU legends.
ď(Samajeís) way ahead of his time,Ē said OU linebacker Eric Striker after the win over the Mountaineers. ďYou canít find a guy like that in college football, I donít think ó not a running back, not any player that came out of high school as complete as he has.Ē
Striker could not have been more right about his young teammate, who went on to not only prove that he is not a flash in the pan, but quite possibly one of the best players in the country.
Over the final three games of the regular season, Perine ran for 791 yards and 10 TDs, averaging 9.3 yards every time he touched the ball. The pinnacle of that stretch unfolded on a rainy November day against Kansas when the 5-foot-11, 243-pounder established a new single-game NCAA record by rushing for 427 yards.
ď(Samaje) is really just a special guy. His timing, his pace, his strength and then when he breaks it he runs away from everybody,Ē said OU coach Bob Stoops, whose star back finished the regular season with 1,579 yards and 21 TDs. ďWith his size, he is just exceptional in that way and every way and he is so strong at taking care of the football. Heís pretty special.Ē
(itaallllllll)Sooner Spectator(endITALLLLL) caught up with the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award finalist and first-team All-Big 12 selection after a recent practice and got his take on the record and his whole OU experience so far.
Sooner Spectator: Youíve had some time to reflect on the Kansas game and setting the NCAA single-game record. Has the magnitude of that accomplishment fully sunk in yet?
Samaje Perine: Honestly, itís just one of those crazy things that happened and I really try not to think about it too much. Itís real and I understand that, and itís pretty cool ó but I really havenít sat around and thought about it a lot. Iím sure itís going to be something I look back on with a lot of pride, but itís also something I share with my teammates because that record doesnít happen without them. And itís not something Iím going to let go to my head because I have a lot of work to do to keep getting better as a player. You canít let success go to your head or itís going to affect the way you play.
SS: What do you remember most about that OU-Kansas game as it unfolded?
Perine: The faces of my offensive linemen, especially when we were getting close to the record. After I had told the coaches that (the record) didnít really matter to me, the linemen came up to me and kept saying that we are too close not to get it now. That look of determination on each of their faces was inspiring and then to see the happiness they expressed just blocking for me as we went for it ó that was special. Iíll carry those memories with me for my whole life.
SS: You ran for 77 yards in your first game ever at OU to begin the 2014 season. As a true freshman, that had to be a memorable day for you, at least until the West Virginia and Kansas games?
Perine: I honestly thought the entire season was probably going to be like that first game. It was fun and I had 77 yards and we won. That was all that mattered. I had no idea that things were going to unfold the way they did, especially with some of those big games. As a true freshman, youíre just wanting to find a way to play and help the team, so looking back now, I have to say that itís all pretty unbelievable to me.
SS: How did you celebrate after running for 427 yards to break the record?
Perine: After the game, we went to The Garage restaurant and got something to eat. After that, I went home and watched cartoons and went to bed because I was so tired.
SS: Where do you go from there since youíve set the bar so high?
Perine: I just have to keep working to get better. Iím definitely not going to let setting any record change the person that I am or how I am going to approach the game. I still have a lot to learn and room to grow as a college football player. I plan to keep my head down and keep pushing myself to improve.
SS: Did you have any personal goals going into the 2014 season?
Perine: Not really. I think the thing that every freshman wants to do is to find a way to contribute and earn a little playing time. Fortunately, things worked out for me and I was able to get a few carries those first few games and that helped my confidence and let me know I could possibly play at this level. Unfortunately, Keith (Ford) got hurt and that put more emphasis on myself and Alex (Ross).
SS: How were you able to make that transition from high school to college look so seamless this season?
Perine: I have to probably say that itís my hard work and determination. Iím always working on getting better. My expectations coming in were not high other than I really wanted to focus on adapting to my new surroundings and a new program. I was prepared to do whatever the coaches asked me to do to improve myself and find a way to play. Iím thankful to my parents for instilling those qualities in me at an early age.
SS: What was it about OU that made you believe it was the right place for you to spend your college years?
Perine: Probably the family atmosphere more than anything. I liked what I saw with the players and coaches here when I visited. I felt then and I know now, that they have each othersí backs and are very supportive in every situation. Itís like a big family and I honestly didnít see that at a lot of other schools. It was the right decision for me at the time, and Iím very happy to be a part of it now.
SS: Were there any other schools that made you wonder if OU was the right choice for you?
Perine: At one time, I thought Alabama might be a place I would like to play. But really, once I took my visit to Norman and saw what the OU program was like, there was no question this is where I wanted to be.
SS: Going back to the record-breaking game and the role that the offensive line played in your performance. How much credit do they deserve?
Perine: They played such a huge, huge role in everything we did that day. They deserve a ton of credit, along with my fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Dimitri Flowers. Those guys made my job so much easier because of the way they blocked and opened holes and created running space. Without those guys, we definitely wouldnít be talking about any records right now.
SS: The offensive line does much of its work in the trenches without much fanfare. You have seemingly made it your mission to make sure they get the credit they deserve?
Perine: Thatís because too many people look at the running back who broke the record and donít realize how much credit and attention the linemen deserve. I appreciate those guys more than they know. They made all of that stuff possible, and in every interview I do, I try to make sure I share the spotlight with them.
SS: As a true freshman, youíve barely begun to scratch the surface of college life and college football. But here we are talking about a record and a great first season. Are you afraid that this as good as it gets?
Perine: Oh no. I feel like Iím only going to get better as a football player. There are still a lot of areas that I need to work on to improve my game. Iím not worried about breaking any more records or anything like that ó I just want to continue to work hard and do whatever this team asks me to do.
SS: Obviously, this has not been the season that everyone wanted it to be, but are you excited about the future and what lies ahead for you and the Sooners ó the rest of this season and going into 2015?
Perine: Iím extremely excited. We have a lot of young players on this team with a lot of talent, and I believe we are only going to get better and better. There are obviously some things that we need to work on and improve on as we move forward, but we believe in each other and we believe in what we are doing here. Those things are so critical to your success.
(This Q&A appears in the Bowl Preview issue of Sooner Spectator. To subscribe, all 405-850-9063)