Photo By Binyamin Mellish (more of his work can be found at https://www.pexels.com/@binyaminmellish)
August 19th, 2020
By Mufaddal Anis
The quarterback position in American football is arguably the most difficult to play in any sport. It takes intelligence, toughness, an innate ability to lead others, and above all else, years and years of practice. I’ll bet even the most rabid of National Football League fans can’t name one professional quarterback who didn’t play the position in high school. I can.
Luis Francisco Perez, from Chula Vista, California, took a slightly different route to the pros. Although, during his freshman year of high school he showed up hoping to be a quarterback, Perez was pegged as a wide receiver by his coaches, and during that year he slowly lost his love for the game. So, his sophomore year he turned to a different sport: bowling.
Perez wasn’t just some kid who liked bowling. He was good. Since starting the sport, he’s bowled 12 perfect games. This means Perez had to bowl 12 strikes in a row. He’s done that 12 different times. But through all of his bowling success, Perez just couldn’t shake his dream of being a quarterback in the NFL.
After playing virtually no football in high school, he enrolled at Southwestern College, a junior college in San Diego, and walked onto the football team. Now, maybe you’re expecting me to tell you that Perez showed up and was immediately named starter, but then this wouldn’t be as crazy of a story. In fact, when he showed up, Perez was the 9th string quarterback. You might ask, who has nine quarterbacks on their roster? Apparently Southwestern College.
Throughout that summer, players switched positions and transferred out, and Perez ended up being 4th string, and eventually won the backup role. Then, mid-season, Perez’s shot came by way of an injury to their starter. Perez started for three games, then promptly broke his leg.
The next season, Perez and another quarterback shared the starting quarterback role for Southwestern College, and he managed to create a little buzz around his name. Perez got called by Texas A&M-Commerce, a DII school in the Texas A&M University system. He immediately took the offer and transferred.
His first season at A&M-Commerce, Perez threw for 3,326 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions in 12 games. He was named as an honorary mention All-American and led the school to their first playoff victory since 1991. He was just warming up. As a senior, he threw for 5,001 yards, 46 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. The A&M-Commerce Lions won their first national title since 1972 with Perez at the helm. Perez won the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is the DII’s equivalent to the Heisman.
After his impressive college career, Perez then focused on his goal of getting to the pros. After signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Perez did see action for the Rams in their final preseason game, but was then cut by the team, signed to their practice squad, and later released.
After his short experience with the Rams, Perez caught on with the Birmingham Iron of the brand new Alliance of American Football. He played eight games for the Iron until the league was suspended due to financial struggles. Perez then had brief stints with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Detroit Lions before finally signing with a new start-up league: the XFL. During the XFL season, Perez started two of the last three games for the New York Guardians before the league was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With all the changes Perez has had to make during his journey, he never gave up on his dream of playing football at its highest level. Who else has gone from not playing any varsity football in high school, changing sports, changing back, to eventually playing the sport professionally? Although the COVID-19 pandemic did cut short his football experience this year, he continues to work toward his goal. Knowing what we know about Perez, this one setback will only have him come back better than ever.