When Ronnie Perkins was 6, about to start his first Pee Wee football season, he received his first pair of cleats and could not keep them off his feet.
“I got in trouble for running around the house and scratching the whole house up,” he recalled, with a laugh.
Growing up in St. Louis, Perkins had watched his two older brothers play football for his dad and was eager for his turn at the sport. Now, 15 years later, he’s headed to the NFL.
The Patriots drafted Perkins in the third round with the 96th overall selection Friday night. The 6-foot-3-inch, 253-pound defensive end out of Oklahoma helps fortify New England’s front seven.
In 32 games over the course of his three-year college career, Perkins posted 16.5 sacks and 32 tackles for a loss. As a junior last season, Perkins was suspended five games to start the year because of a failed drug test. But he proved to be productive, recording 23 tackles, including 10.5 for a loss and 5.5 sacks in six games, and earning All-Big 12 second-team honors.
“I like the kid,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “Coming off the edge, I like the bend, I like the ability to have that secondary move, I like the ability to have an inside move. He tackles with purpose once he arrives on the scene.”
Moments after the selection was announced by former Patriots wide receiver Stanley Morgan, Perkins was bubbling with excitement, particularly over the opportunity to play for coach Bill Belichick as well as outside linebackers coach Stephen Belichick.
“Honestly, it’s surreal,” Perkins said on a conference call. “My mind can’t even wrap around it. Just to get the opportunity to get coached by Coach Belichick, it’s the most mind-blowing thing in my head right now. Honestly, I’m so excited. I just can’t wait to learn from Coach Belichick and the younger Coach Belichick.”
Throughout the pre-draft process, Perkins said he had a few interactions with the Patriots, calling even the opportunity to speak to a member of the Belichick family “a huge blessing.”
“I was mind-blown,” Perkins said. “I wasn’t talking to coach Bill Belichick, but I was talking to coach Steve Belichick, and I was really still mind-blown. I was talking to somebody part of the Belichick family. You mention their name, and that’s one of the most legendary coaching families in the NFL.”
At Oklahoma’s Pro Day, Perkins recorded a vertical jump of 32 inches and broad jump of 9 feet and 7 inches. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.74 seconds and logged 25 bench press reps.
“I definitely know the Patriots fans will love me, just from watching the past Patriots defensive greats,” he said. “I definitely know they’ll love me, just in the way I play.”
Perkins listed linebacker Dont’a Hightower as one of the Patriots greats he models his game after, along with retired linebacker Willie McGinest and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Even though Gilmore is a defensive back, Perkins admires the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year for being “a silent assassin.”
“He just lets all his play do the talking,” he said.
New England’s pass rush will also be strengthened by the recent free agent acquisition of defensive end Matthew Judon and the returns of Hightower, who opted out of the 2020 season, and Kyle Van Noy, who re-signed after spending a season in Miami.
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.