He missed all of the 2015 season — and last October, another shoulder injury ended Gabe Perez’s 2016 campaign early.
For a player who came onto the Boise State football scene with one of the better seasons by a true freshman in 2013, Perez has come close to being a pass-rushing terror without quite hitting his considerable potential.
“It’s been pretty tough ... but it’s going to prepare me for life. It’s not the toughest thing I’m going to face, so it’s going to help me out in the long run,” Perez said.
The senior STUD (stand-up defender) is back on the field this spring, but sporting the yellow no-contact jersey. He said he’s in the training room “all the time.”
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A torn labrum in his left shoulder ended his junior season before it started, forcing him to redshirt. He suffered the same injury on his right shoulder last year, limiting him to five games.
“At first I was pissed off. Then you’ve just got to smile at it, laugh it off, keep working,” Perez said.
That’s exactly what Perez has done through the first 12 spring practices, working at STUD and at strongside linebacker, saying, “I’m all over the place, playing everything so I can just help out anywhere I can. That’s my role.”
Perez was second on the team with seven tackles for loss in 2013 and fourth with 7.5 in 2014. When healthy, the 6-foot-4, 236 pounder has been just what the Broncos look for on the edge. He said the injuries have forced him to adapt, and even without contact, he’s found ways to make an impact this spring.
“He knows the scheme already, and he can help the young guys — he’s always coaching,” defensive line coach Steve Caldwell said. “He knows what his role is going to be, and if he can stay healthy, then it will increase more and more.”
Sophomore STUD Sam Whitney, who has worked as the primary No. 1 this spring with Perez limited and junior Jabril Frazier out, said Perez was his host on his recruiting visit. He noted that right away, before any injuries, he knew Perez would do well with those new responsibilities as a veteran.
“He’s like a coach, he’s a really good mentor,” Whitney said.
Caldwell said as Frazier dealt with his injuries and Perez was lost for good in late October, “it made a big difference.” Perez had just five tackles, one for loss, but some of that edge pressure helped the likes of defensive tackle David Moa have one-on-ones inside. The Broncos had 20 sacks after the Oct. 7 win at New Mexico, and nine in the eight games following.
Adding Perez to the mix again, even if it is in a limited role as a pass-rushing specialist, could be a boon for the defense.
“I think people forget that because they haven’t seen him in a while, but when he does play, he stands out for sure,” Whitney said.
For his part, Perez said he likes “helping out the young kids.” As the only player on the roster to appear in a game when Chris Petersen was the coach, he certainly can help, having seen it all.
“I feel a little old,” Perez said with a smile.
Boise State spring game
- When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Albertsons Stadium
- Tickets: $10 at BroncoSports.com/tickets or the athletic ticket office on the west side of the stadium.