Soft-spoken Northeast Tech senior fullback Christian Perez won't say much about his own game in a one-on-one sit-down, but on the field, his big gains speak loud and clear.
Perez, a four-year player for the Knights, is in the midst of his best season for the gold and black, accruing 1,078 rushing yards on 92 carries, including two 200-plus yard performances in just seven games. In that span, he's also scored a team-high 12 touchdowns, half of them by runs of 20 yards or more.
When the Knights started their regular season, Manchester-Essex had them down for the count at halftime, allowing the Knights nothing early while rolling to a 16-6 halftime lead. Facing defeat, Perez served his team a pep talk at the break. He spoke of heart and determination. "We were struggling and getting nothing going," said Northeast coach Don Heres of the teams struggle to win week one. "But every time we gave [Perez] the ball he made something happen." His speech must have resonated with his teammates, too, because Northeast won the game, outscoring Manchester-Essex 36-12 in the second half. Perez finished off the job with 225 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Behind his words -- and fleet feet -- the undefeated Knights (7-0) have never looked back, rushing their way to nearly 3,000 yards as a team and into the MIAA Division 5 Playoffs as one of the hottest squads in Eastern Mass.
In our final regular season edition of First & 10, Perez, who is averaging more than a first down per carry (11.7 yards), will let us know what music gets him running, his passion for plumbing, and his relationship with coach Don Heres.
So Northeast is a technical vocational school, what town are you from and what are you learning there?
I'm from Reading, right down the street from the school. I'm learning plumbing.
So what is it about plumbing that interests you?
It's easy, it's a good trade. It's the type of thing that's good to know how to do. I don't know. It's easy [laughs].
So you're having a great season, leading your team in TD rushes and yardage. In your four years playing football, have you ever had a 1,000 yard season?
Nope, first time.
How does it feel?
Good. Went hard in the offseason and worked everyday. And I did that and it turned out to be awesome. With hard work comes greatness.
What was your best game this season, in your opinion?
The first game of the year. We were losing, and all of the sudden I had a breakout game. I told my team that we needed to keep pushing and we did. And we pulled out the win. That inspired me.
Following that win, where you rushed for 225 yards, you racked up another 213 yards in Week 2. Did you earn any nicknames for the consecutive big games?
[laughs] Yea, actually, CP23. Stands for my name and my number. It kind of sticks I guess. I like it. CP23, sounds cool.
How about coach Heres, any nickname from him?
Yea, he calls me Chris. I don't like that one, though, it sounds weird.
So how's your relationship with coach, any hard feelings because of the name?
No not all. It's fun we can get along, it's like a good friendship. He's my swimming teacher as well and he's always there for me. He's just a really good guy.
Has that relationship you two have built the past four years help you excel this season?
Yea. If you can't get along with the coaches than you probably won't do good in games. But coach Heres isn't like that, everyone likes him.
Now, every football player has some song or ritual to get them amped up and going pregame, any for you? Coach Heres said he's heard some "funky music" coming from the locker rooms.
[Laughs] We're into rap and rock music. I like the old rock stuff, like AC/DC and some Lil' Wayne. "Where the hood" at by DMX is good too.
What would you say is the strongest part of your game?
It's three parts: my speed, my vision, and my strength. But a lot has to do with speed. Speed kills.
Any current NFL stars you would compare your running style to?
Funny you ask, was just talking to my friends about that, and they said Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster. I like Arian Foster. The way he cuts, his vision, and the way he runs the ball. I have good vision.
So, you were part of the 2010 Super Bowl winning Knights team as a freshman, fast-forward four years and what have you learned about football since then?
Just to never give up and have heart. Never think about yourself and think about the team. We're 7-0 right now because it's not about individuals.
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Then there are our fall correspondents:
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- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Div. 4 football
- Greg Joyce | @GJoyce9 | Div. 5 football
- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
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