Brown University is not exactly a regular stop on the NFL scouting trail. The Bears are 7-33 over the last four years. A handful of Brown products have reached the NFL, including James Develin, Sean Morey, and Zak DeOssie, but the school hasn’t had a player drafted since 2010.
But Providence became a must-visit this fall for the NFL scouts. They came en masse to see E.J. Perry IV, a former star at Andover High who transferred from Boston College to Brown in 2019 and dominated the Ivy League for two years.
Even though his team went 2-8 in 2019 and 2021 (with 2020 canceled because of COVID-19), Perry was named First Team All-Ivy League both seasons. Monday in New York City, Perry won the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year, after he ranked top 10 in the nation in completion percentage and passing yards per game and accounted for 31 touchdowns.
“We had 31 of 32 teams come through, and a bunch of them came through multiple times,” said Brown coach James Perry, E.J.’s uncle. “I’ve coached other kids who had stints in the NFL, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”
The Ivy League is known more for producing baseball general managers than NFL quarterbacks. Harvard’s Ryan Fitzpatrick has been the torch-bearer for the past two decades, and the league also produced Sid Luckman (Columbia), Jay Fiedler (Darmouth), Jeff Kemp (Dartmouth), and Jason Garrett (Princeton).
Massachusetts high school football isn’t exactly a hotbed for quarterbacks, either. Doug Flutie and Matt and Tim Hasselbeck are considered royalty, while Todd Collins, Jack Concannon, and Brian St. Pierre established NFL careers.
But now Perry will get a chance to prove himself among the blue-chippers. He recently accepted an invitation to play in February’s East-West Shrine Bowl, considered the second-most prestigious college showcase game behind the Senior Bowl. Perry will spend a week in Las Vegas conducting interviews with and practicing in front of all 32 teams, while also competing against players from much larger schools. Perry, who signed with Salem-based NFL agent Sean Stellato, is hopeful to get an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine in March.
Brown has never had a quarterback throw a pass in the NFL, and hasn’t had a player drafted in over a decade. But Perry will be carrying the school’s flag this winter throughout the pre-draft process.
“It’s just so obvious he has the arm talent, the athletic ability to be a really intriguing prospect, at the very least,” said Eric Galko, the director of football operations for the Shrine Bowl. “We think he’s one of the best senior quarterbacks in the entire country.”
One NFL scout compared Perry to Washington quarterback Taylor Heinecke, with “some magician-like qualities to his game.” Listed at 6-2 and 210 pounds, Perry threw for almost 6,000 yards and rushed for more than 1,100 yards in his two seasons at Brown.
“He’s fun to watch,” the scout added. “I could see some NFL coaches falling in love with the way E.J. plays the game and taking a shot on him in the mid- to late-rounds.”
Perry’s name is familiar to anyone who follows high school and college football in Massachusetts. His father, E.J. Perry III, is the longtime coach at Andover High. His uncle, James, was a star at Malden Catholic and three-time All-Ivy quarterback at Brown and has coached for 20 years at Princeton, Brown, and Bryant. Another uncle, John, was a tight ends and receivers coach for seven years with the Houston Texans under Bill O’Brien.
And Perry himself was a decorated athlete at Andover High who eventually settled on football. A four-year starter, Perry’s 114 career touchdowns and 8,712 passing yards are second-most in Massachusetts history. As a junior, Perry threw for 636 yards in a playoff game game Central Catholic. He was the Globe’s Division 1 Player of the Year in 2016, then enrolled at Boston College in 2017.
He appeared in five games in 2018, including the Clemson game, when he played the final three quarters. But Perry lost a tight quarterback competition to Anthony Brown before the 2019 season, and didn’t want to spend his entire college career on the bench.
Perry said he had several offers from Football Bowl Subdivision schools, but he would have to sit out a year. But his uncle, James, got the Brown job in 2019, and Perry could transfer there and play right away.
The young quarterback was clearly a big fish in a tiny pond, with the Bears were coming off a 1-9 season. But Perry didn’t care, as long as he got to play. He helped his uncle set a culture, taught his teammates how to practice at the Division 1 level, and got an Ivy League degree out of it.
“I dragged him into a tough spot, but he really handled it well,” James Perry said. “He’s going to leave a really good mark on this program – not just with the stats, but the program’s in a much better place, and he had a lot to do with it.”
Perry certainly has more NFL pedigree than the typical Ivy League quarterback. When he was in high school, he got to visit his uncle, John, at Texans training camp. Perry would help out in practices, sit in with the quarterbacks in the meeting room, and lift weights with the players, including J.J. Watt.
In 2020 during the pandemic, Perry kept in shape by training with a handful of Patriots players and serving as the quarterback in defensive back drills for guys like Devin McCourty.
Perry also earned an invitation to the prestigious Manning Passing Academy this past summer, where he competed against many of the nation’s top college quarterbacks like Heisman winner Bryce Young, and got to pick the brains of Peyton and Eli Manning.
“That was when he knew that he was a fit, and that his opportunity would come,” said his dad, E.J. Perry III.
Perry now has four months to convince the NFL scouts that he can play at the highest level.
“There are definitely northeast area scouts that I’ve talked to that said E.J., the way he’s played the last two years, he could have been the starting quarterback at BC,” said Galko. “Make no mistake, he’s arguably the most athletic quarterback in the entire draft class, and he’ll be one of the more intriguing guys for sure.”
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.