Perry go­ing back to East Side Satur­day

Former Brown stand­out match­ing wits with men­tor

Pawtucket Times - - SPORTS - BREN­DAN McGAIR Sports Writer

James Perry is do­ing his best to treat Satur­day’s game at Brown as the next one on the sched­ule. It’s the only process the first-year Bryant head coach knows.

When Perry looks across the field on Satur­day af­ter­noon, he’ll see some­one who proved to be in­te­gral to his own climb up the coach­ing, and be­fore that was just as in­stru­men­tal in help­ing the former star quar­ter­back set vir­tu­ally ev­ery Brown and Ivy League pass­ing record dur­ing his col­lege ca­reer.

Such “old-hat” fa­mil­iar­ity with long­time Bears head coach Phil Estes makes for an in­trigu­ing chess match with Brown Sta­dium serv­ing as the back­drop.

Men­tor ver­sus pupil is the chief sto­ry­line on the lo­cal col­lege foot­ball scene and fea­tures an emo­tional-tug-of-war where the sen­ti­ments are un­der­stood. Rest as­sured they’ll be no clammy hand­shakes when Perry and Estes cross paths at mid­field be­fore the 12:30 p.m. kick­off. Too much re­spect ex­ists in both camps.

“He was my coach and my boss and con­tin­ues to be some­one I look to for ad­vice,” Perry said.

Rosy sen­ti­ments aside, Perry would like noth­ing more than to get the bet­ter of Estes and jog off the same field where he once en­gi­neered so many drives that re­sulted in touch­downs. The com­pet­i­tive, fire-in-the-belly feel­ing that resides in all foot­ball coaches isn’t about to turn all warm and sen­ti­men­tal just be­cause the alma mater and your former head coach is next up on the docket.

“We want to be known as one of the best pro­grams in FCS. In or­der to ac­com­plish that, you’ve got to play teams like Brown who are at the top level in this di­vi­sion,” Perry said. “We have a great op­por­tu­nity to go against a great team.”

On the flip side, Estes is out to en­sure the bal­ance of power stays on Brown’s side of the ledger. Perry may have firm ties to the Ivy League univer­sity, but all that will be ir­rel­e­vant on Satur­day.

“It makes this game a lit­tle bit unique and gives us all some­thing to shoot for,” Estes said. “He’s com­ing back and prob­a­bly wants to make a state­ment and I’m not go­ing to al­low that to hap­pen.

“We’ll see each other and talk be­fore the game. We’ll talk af­ter­wards and one will be happy while the other is sad,” Estes added.

It’s im­por­tant to note that Perry has made the trek to Prov­i­dence’s East Side as an op­po­nent be­fore. The seven sea­sons (2010-16) he spent as Prince­ton’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor as­sured that come ev­ery fall, he would lock horns and match wits with the Brown staff.

“It won’t be as dis­ori­ent­ing as stand­ing on the op­pos­ing side­lines for the first time, but it will be a spe­cial mo­ment,” Perry said.

That said, the tenor has changed thanks to what hap­pened eight months ago when Bryant tabbed Perry the third head coach in pro­gram his­tory.

“It’s sim­i­lar to the fact that he’s still the en­emy and has close ties to Brown Univer­sity, but he’s the head guy now. He’s run­ning the whole show. Be­fore, he was only run­ning one side of the ball,” Estes said.

At Brown Sta­dium’s main en­trance, there’s a ban­ner with a pic­ture that pays homage to Perry for win­ning the 1999 Ivy League Player of the Year and quar­ter­back­ing the Bears to the league cham­pi­onship that same year. It’s per­fectly un­der­stand­able if Perry tells the bus driver to drop the Bull­dogs off out­side a gate where his past isn’t ev­i­dent upon walk­ing into the sta­dium. Af­ter all, coaches are ada­ment min­i­miz­ing dis­trac­tions.

“There’s a lot of his­tory there,” Estes noted.

There’s also an el­e­ment of the un­known with Estes and Brown set to raise the cur­tain on the pro­gram’s 140th sea­son of in­ter­col­le­giate foot­ball. With two games al­ready in the books, Bryant (1-1) is the team that’s al­ready fully en­trenched in the phys­i­cal and men­tal prepa­ra­tion needed in ad­vance of play­ing on Satur­days.

Ad­van­tage Perry in that he has sat in on many a pregame meet­ing with Estes and thanks to his Prince­ton days has game-plan­ning ex­pe­ri­ence against Brown?

“He knows what he has to cor­rect and we’re go­ing to go into this game kind of blind,” Estes said. “We don’t know our own team as well as we would like. We’ll find out quickly, though.”

You could say that Perry and Estes have a very good re­la­tion­ship, one that knows how to sep­a­rate the per­sonal from the pro­fes­sional as­pect.

Even when Perry was cash­ing coach­ing checks at Prince­ton, he would al­ways make it a point to stop by Brown dur­ing the sum­mer months when­ever he went home to visit fam­ily in An­dover, Mass. This past sum­mer, the Per­rys were in­vited to the Estes homestead for lunch that later turned into a pool party.

Af­ter Perry got the Bryant job, Estes of­fered poignant ad­vice to his former sig­nal caller and mem­ber of his coach­ing staff. That told Perry that it might not be a bad idea to take a page from what has worked for Estes at Brown and ap­ply it to the Bryant pro­gram he now over­sees.

“I’ll be bor­row­ing from the same phi­los­o­phy and make sure our play­ers are tough and phys­i­cal minded,” Perry said.

The ties that bind don’t fray eas­ily, no mat­ter the cir­cum­stances. On Satur­day, Perry and Estes will have to shelve their re­la­tion­ship for the sake of their re­spec­tive squads. Thank­fully, they’ll only have to do so for a few hours.

“I love James Perry. At the end of the day, he’s still a Brown Bear. We ad­mire him and want to see him suc­cess­ful,” Estes said. “Just not this Satur­day.”

Photo by Ernest A. Brown

For the first time in his ca­reer, Bryant coach James Perry will go into Brown Sta­dium as an op­pos­ing head coach. Perry quar­ter­backed Brown to the 1999 Ivy League ti­tle.

File photo by Ernest A. Brown

Af­ter en­dur­ing a blowout loss to Maine last Satur­day in Orono, Bryant coach James Perry (cen­ter) leads his team to a fami­lair place, Brown Sta­dium, Satur­day at 12:30 p.m.

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