Patient Perry earns starting role

Nick Perry

After waiting a couple years to see the field, junior safety Nick Perry has finally earned himself a job at Alabama, getting his first start last Saturday against Western Kentucky. And his family was there to see it, which made it even more special.

Patience has paid off for Nick Perry. After years of waiting for his chance to see the field at Alabama, he's finally earned himself a starting role.

But the feeling is bittersweet. He was supposed to share this moment with teammate Jarrick Williams. But Williams was declared out for the season back in fall camp after tearing his ACL.

So now that Perry has worked his way up the depth chart, he's sharing it with his friend.

"Me and Jarrick came in together, struggled together and improved together," Perry said. "I think it hurt me a little bit more when he got hurt because we always had the dream of us being on the field together."

Before getting injured, Williams was in the mix at safety. But now he'll live vicariously through Perry.

"He just told me, I'm doing it for him. Just get out there and play hard for me and him, so he's kind of living through me," said Perry.

Perry arrived at Alabama in 2010. Despite winning back-to-back state championships at Prattville High School, he knew it was going to be awhile before he was able to contribute to the Tide, sitting behind players like Mark Barron and Robert Lester.

"Everyone expects to come in and play, but it's not like that at every university, every big team," he said. "Everybody is used to being on the field. Everybody has a dream of coming in and being a true freshman, but sometimes you have to wait your turn and mature."

Now Perry is a junior and after two years of studying and working and asking questions, he has matured and earned himself a starting job at free safety.

Perry played most of the second half against Michigan after Lester left the game with a shoulder stinger, but got his first official start last Saturday against Western Kentucky.

"It was great to be able to have my first start at home and have my parents there to watch," Perry said, beaming. "It was a big-time experience that I'll remember for the rest of my life."

Asked if he had any pre-game jitters, Perry laughed.

"I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty nervous," he said. "But after my first couple of tackles, my instincts carried over and my nervousness went down."

One of the reasons Perry started against the Hilltoppers was due to Saban's game plan that involved moving Vinnie Sunseri to strong safety, where he'd share time with Lester.

Perry also sees the field at the "money" position in Alabama's dime defense.

"Playing multiple roles is a hard thing, but you get used to it and I've been practicing since the springtime," he said. "I guess I've been doing a pretty good job at it."

Perry said the spring was when everything about Saban's complex defense with all its moving parts finally clicked for him.

"I started carrying it over to the field more and practicing and having instincts and everything started working and falling in place," he said.

Now that Perry has shown he understands how to play different roles, Saban will continue to test his versatility.

"He's very conscientious, very smart," Saban said. "Does a good job of making sure he's ready to do his job well. He's going to have to play some roles this week [against Arkansas] that will be a little bit different for him as well."

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