Anthony Perkins during fall camp.
Anthony Perkins during fall camp. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )
The nightmare that has unfolded in the Colorado secondary this season could have been much worse if not for resilient senior safety Anthony Perkins.

By now Colorado fans are well aware of the ugly details. The program has lost nine cornerbacks to injury or suspension this fall, leading coaches to move offensive players to defense to help out along with trying multiple backup safeties at cornerback. Perkins has been a tutor for all of them, both on the practice field and in the film room.

And it's at least a mild surprise that he has been able to contribute as much as he has.

Perkins' 2010 season ended in early October when he blew out his knee in a loss at Missouri. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that sometimes requires as long as 18 months to two years two full recover from, depending on the individual. Perkins worked hard to make sure he was ready for his senior season and since the beginning of fall camp in August he has been the heart and soul of the Buffs' defense.

"He's a tough customer," defensive coordinator Greg Brown said. "He's an extension of the staff on the field. That's for sure. He's so intelligent. He makes our calls and does a great job."

CU assistant athletic trainer Adam Holliday worked with Perkins to rehabilitate his knee. It's a process he has been through before with other athletes and many of them are not as quick to recover as Perkins.


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Consider that through the first six games of the season, no other CU defender has been on the field for more plays than Perkins, who is the team's leading tackler heading into this week's game at Washington.

"His mindset and the type of person he is and the type ofathlete he is, it makes a huge difference when you have a positive mindset going into an injury like that and the recovery and the rehab," Holliday said. "For a lot of people it's kind of almost a mental game, being able to accept the injury, understand it and know what you need to do to get back from it.

"He did anything and everything and then some to get back from it."

Perkins wears a brace these days to help protect his surgically repaired knee. If he has lost a step or any explosiveness, he generally makes up for it by being in the right position and knowing what is coming from the offense. His coaches and teammates haven't noticed a difference.

"When I'm out there, I feel fine, I feel great, I feel healthy," Perkins said. "As far as me being any slower or moving around any different, maybe. That would probably be a something better asked to someone watching me, someone watching how I play. But when I'm out there, I'm 100 percent comfortable. I'm 100 percent confident in what I'm being asked to do. So for me that's not an issue right now."

Perkins is so well respected within the CU program, it caught the attention of 2011 recruit Sherrard Harrington before he arrived in Boulder. Harrington read several stories about Perkins from last season and realized how much coaches and other players thought of him. Harrington contacted Perkins and asked if he could room with him during fall camp.

Perkins could be accurately described as an old soul in the Colorado locker room. He is the only player on the team who is married and he has been eyeing a possible future in coaching for years now. While some of his teammates might spend their free time playing video games or going out with friends, Perkins is working on a second degree or preparing for a Bible study session he leads with teammates every Wednesday after practice. He's also constantly looking to find ways to win more games down the stretch in his career.

"He's a smarter Anthony Perkins. That's for sure," free safety Ray Polk said. "I mean, he knows everything, everything that everybody is doing. I think that year off made him get in the playbook like all the time. He knows everything. He was always helping me out, but he knows every blitz and anything that you can think of. So it's like having a coach out there."

Perkins found himself in a difficult position in the waning moments of a loss to Washington State two weeks ago. He was playing behind true freshman cornerback Greg Henderson and former wide receiver turned cornerback Jason Espinoza on the left side of the Colorado defense.

Seconds before the snap on what proved to be the game-winning play for Washington State, Perkins ran up behind Espinoza to re-position him correctly in the defense, he dropped back into his normal position just in time for the snap. Perkins made the mistake of biting up on a pump fake by the quarterback and a double move by the wide receiver, who blew by him and Henderson to score a touchdown. Henderson simultaneously made the mistake of releasing the receiver.

Years from now if he does choose a future in coaching, it's a moment Perkins might draw on to teach players both the proper decision on the field and the right way to handle the aftermath.

Perkins didn't spend any time pointing fingers or sulking about his own error. Brown said Perkins is very similar to former CU safety Ryan Walters in his level of maturity as a senior and in his interest in coaching. Walters is one of youngest fulltime assistant coaches at a Bowl Championship Series program this season as secondary coach at Arizona.

"He's as sharp as they come," Brown said of Perkins. "He's got all the intangibles. He knows how to handle people, he's charismatic, gets along with everybody in the locker room. He can get people to do what he needs them to do as a leader. There is no reason to think that wouldn't carry over into coaching. He would be a terrific coach if he wants to do it."