Diary of an NFL Draft Underdog: Justin Perillo


One scholarship offer.

Justin Perillo, a decorated three-sport high school athlete from Delaware, didn’t know if he’d play a sport in college. After his senior season of high school football, the tight end who also played linebacker didn’t have any offers. Midway through Perillo’s final basketball season at The Tatnall School in Wilmington, Delaware, the University of Maine’s offensive coordinator saw him playing basketball and perhaps envisioned Perillo as the next Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez: an athlete with good size, sublime footwork and great hands who could play tight end in college.

And thus began Perillo’s quest to what he hopes will culminate this weekend with being selected in the 2014 NFL Draft.

For much of March, I followed Perillo as he worked out for what he called the biggest day of his life: His Pro Day at the University of Maine. How he performed there in front of NFL scouts from the Eagles, Patriots, Chargers, Chiefs and others would determine the next phase of his life. Will he get paid to play professional football, or give up the NFL dream and go into the business world and work 9-5 behind a desk?

This four-part mini-documentary series will run this week and conclude after the draft.

Perillo, who is 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, is a throwback football player. Old school. No gloves. Tireless blue collar work ethic. No social media. Long hair. Off the field, temperamentally, he never seems more than 50 yards from the beach. His agent says his hands – perhaps thanks to basketball – are more constant than the North Star. Several teams have expressed interest in Perillo as a mid-late round 3rd-day draft pick. He could be an undrafted free agent.

There’s a chance nobody is interested.

Part II: The Pro Day Awaits.

[Video credits: Jessica Gagne, Kwanza Gooden, Michael Shamburger and the University of Maine.]