Last fall, Mark Perry was on the field for a large majority of the defensive snaps for the Colorado football team.
The sophomore safety wasn’t too pleased with how he performed, however.
“I’m gonna be completely honest about last year,” he said. “I put last year on the back burner. Last year might have been one of my worst years playing football ever, to be honest. That’s how I felt. I feel like I hold myself to a high standard, so last year really bothered me. I wasn’t making a lot of plays. I was leaving a lot of plays on the field.”
Preparing for his third season with the Buffaloes, Perry is still just 19 years old – he turns 20 on May 30 – with plenty of room to grow. He’s intent on making a lot of progress this spring.
“Coming out this spring I already had a chip on my shoulder just to show people that, like, I’m not a bust,” Perry said. “I’ve been here two years, I’ve been in a different position each year, so I’m still learning. This might be my fourth year playing (defensive back) full time, so I’m still learning every day.”
Although Perry didn’t live up to his standard last season – he finished with 10 tackles and one pass breakup in the Buffs’ five-game regular season – he is an integral part of the defense going forward.
A projected starter at free safety, Perry is the most experienced player on the back end of the Buffs’ defense. That experience is showing this spring, as the Buffs have completed 10 of 15 practices.
“His safety play is night and day difference from what it was in the fall,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said. “He’s had his hands on a few catches, a few balls already with interceptions, so I’ve been very pleased where Mark’s at.”
A 2019 graduate of Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High School, Perry was an exceptional running back, but took on full-time safety duties as a senior. That year, he racked up 57 tackles and four pass breakups and was named first-team All-conference. He also participated in track and field in high school, as a sprinter.
This spring, Perry chose to pull double duty again, as he joined the CU track team. At the CU Invitational last Saturday, he won the 100-meter sprint with a time of 10.65 seconds (receiver Dimitri Stanley was second, at 10.85).
“It’s kind of hard to balance (two sports and school), but I feel like since we’re in kind of an offseason, it’s not as bad if I was doing something during (football) season,” he said. “Having track and football at the moment, it kind of just feels like regular season, having to practice throughout the week and then a game, so it’s not too much of a hassle. But it’s for sure a grind.”
It’s a grind that Perry doesn’t mind, however.
“I just kind of like to keep myself busy, so I decided to go back into track,” he said. “I had a pretty good senior year running track, so I just kind of wanted to build off that success and hopefully get faster, helping translate to football.”
To this point, Perry said he’s seen the benefit on the football field.
“I’ve seen it pay off a lot, especially when I’m coming downhill,” he said. “When I’m covering the middle of the field, I’ve just felt faster, getting in and out of my breaks.
“I haven’t exactly ran the times I wanted to yet in track, but as you can see we’re getting there. I’ve cut down (time) pretty good. Only two meets I’ve ran and I’ve only practiced for about … three, four weeks. So, in the minimum amount of time I’ve had practicing, I feel I’ve been doing pretty good.”
Of course, Perry’s main objective is to have this work pay off during the football season. Playing in a nickel role in 2019, he made several big plays but was moved back to safety last year.
Now settled in at safety, Perry hopes for a more impactful season this year.
“I feel like this spring is really important (for development),” he said. “The spring game is going to be really important. Everything that we’re going through is really important right now and I’m not taking it for granted. Every rep that I’m getting on the field I’m just making sure that I’m doing it with intent and making sure that I’m doing my job.”