Longhorn offensive lineman Kent Perkins was one of just four players Coach Charlie Strong chose to bring to Big 12 Media Days in Dallas this week, a duty “Perk,” as the coach calls him, counted as an honor and a responsibility.
Perkins, a star player for Lake Highlands High School and a senior at the University of Texas, knows he is one of the “old men” on the squad. With freshman quarterback Shane Buechele one of several new players likely to start and new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert making changes every day, Perkins will be a steadying force, on the field and in the locker room.
“I’m one of the few on the team who played for both Mac Brown and Coach Strong,” Perkins told me. “I love them both.”
Strong admits he’ll be depending on Perkins.
“You’re always looking for progress, each and every year,” said Strong of his team, which went 5-7 last season, winning against highly-ranked Baylor and Oklahoma but losing big against Notre Dame and Iowa State. “The guys I’ve got here, with Dylan Haines, with Boyette, with Perk, and with Bluiett, those guys are here today, and they’ve done a really good job of establishing the program and want to get it back to where it should be. You want to see progress – it has to happen. You look at last year, we signed two guys at 300 pounds – this year it’s 9 – but you’ve got to win the game up front. You look at our signees, they’re big guys, but you want to see development and just make sure you continue to move and to grow each and every year.”
“Being a leader,” said Perkins, “I’ve never been an outspoken guy, to speak and yell and stuff like that. But we seniors do have guys who are following us. As an upper classman, I do what I need to do, and I lead by example. That means being on time to meetings, holding people accountable, making sure everyone is in line, and leading that role without being a hypocrite.”
Strong described playing game videos in the workout room after the season was over. Some days he replayed their big victories. Some days he showed their humiliating losses. Afterward, he texted players to ask how they felt. It stung, players admitted.
“Guys are tired of losing,” said Perkins. “Guys are tired of hearing people say this and that about UT. You felt the energy change when guys came back for spring workouts. I believe there’s been a turning point. We work hard. We’ve worked harder than we ever have this off season. Everything is going how it’s supposed to go. You can feel it. You could feel it in spring training.”
As Strong spoke about the annual Texas/OU game at Dallas’ Cotton Bowl, he marveled at the many ways the contest is different from every other game of the season.
“It’s an unbelievable matchup,” said Strong. “You can just throw the records out the door. Nothing has to be said, that’s the one game I don’t even have to talk. There’s so much energy in the stadium that not much has to be said. You’d like to see us play like that every time.”
Perkins’ goal as a team leader is to make that happen his senior year.
“The OU game is the rivalry game. That’s the game you point out in the season that you have to win. We don’t like them and they don’t like us. It’s a fun rivalry, it’s an exciting rivalry. The energy is different. Walking out there, one half of the stadium is orange, the other half is red, and you’re excited. Both of the teams are getting heated. Your family can easily go, I know my mom will be in the stands, and I know some friends from high school will be there, so yeah, it’s exciting. That game is more fun, but it’s also more pressure. It’s my favorite game of the year.
“We’ve got to bring that swag back to all the games. When you’re confident, it just comes out. You show it on the field, you show it in how you walk and how you talk. We need to bring that out and show it.”
Perkins, wearing #76 for the Longhorns, was named the team’s offensive MVP last season. You can watch his first game as a senior Sept. 4th at 6:30 p.m. against Notre Dame on ABC. The Red River Showdown against OU will be played in Dallas Oct. 8. The full schedule can be viewed here.