At one point, Luis Perez wanted to be a pro bowler. Not a Pro Bowl player in the NFL. An actual pro bowler.
Perez recalls always having a football in his hands as a child and dreamed of one day being a quarterback. But when he tried out for the team at Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista, California, the coaches wanted him to play wide receiver and "the love kind of went away" for the game. He decided to pour his energy into bowling with an eye on becoming a professional.
He bowled for the first time at a birthday party for his father Juan, who was a professional soccer player in Mexico. The younger Perez was 9 or 10 years old at the time and was hooked. With 12 perfect games on his résumé, Perez was on the right path until he was struck by the energy and excitement of watching his friends play in the last home football game of their senior year.
No tape. No problem.
Perez turned to YouTube videos to learn proper throwing form and how the game's best quarterbacks played. He wanted to emulate everything from footwork to arm delivery to cadence in the huddle to delivering pep talks to his teammates. Yes, Perez was still intent on becoming a quarterback. He enrolled at Southwestern College and refused to play any other position than quarterback despite coaches' requests. He catapulted from ninth on the depth chart – NINTH – to playing by the third week of the 2013 season due to injuries and transfers. A starter the following season, Perez led the Jaguars to a conference title. After the second season at Southwestern, Perez hoped to land with a Division I program but transferred to Texas A&M-Commerce. Not the Aggies of the SEC, but the Lions of the Lone Star Conference.
Nonetheless, Perez pushed on and guided Texas A&M-Commerce to a national title and captured the Harlon Hill Trophy, the Heisman of Division II football, as a senior. Perez described his development as taking "baby steps," but it’s quite a feat to go from no experience to one of the best players in the college ranks.
"It's hard to even describe," Perez said by telephone. "I try not to look too far ahead. I just try to look at what's in front of me, just get better at little things each and every day."
His rapid rise wasn't enough to get him drafted last year, but he earned an invite to the Rams' rookie camp and was signed to the team. He played in the preseason finale before being released. He was brought back to the Rams' practice squad but was let go just over two weeks later.
Did you think after all that Perez had been through that he would give up on his dream just like that? He was chosen by the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football and threw for 252 yards in his season debut, a 26-0 win.
The Iron went 5-3 this spring before the league was shut down. The 24-year-old Perez completed 52.3 percent of his passes for five touchdowns against six interceptions.
Perez wasn't out of work for long. He flew into Philadelphia for the first time and tried out on Monday. The Eagles liked what they saw and signed him, along with wide receivers Charles Johnson and Greg Ward, to a one-year deal on Tuesday.
"The AAF did a fantastic job developing me, great coaching staff. But when I got the call (from the Eagles), I was very excited for the opportunity to just compete and to work out and hopefully be able to get a contract, so I did that," the 6-2, 222-pound Perez said. "I'm very fortunate to be an Eagle. I'm excited to get to work."
The Eagles have provided Perez with an opportunity, but nothing is guaranteed. Far from it. Carson Wentz is entrenched as the franchise quarterback while fellow fourth-year player Nate Sudfeld is looking to be the primary backup entering the season. Perez can't afford to look too far into the future. He's pumped to be a part of an Offseason Conditioning Program for the first time.
"Monday can't come fast enough," Perez said. "I'm really excited to get to work."