In two seasons at Oklahoma, Samaje Perine has become a legend because of his weight room feats of strength. His numbers on the field have him in position to become the top running back at a school where the position has been stocked with icons.
Billy Sims, the 1978 Heisman Trophy winner, is OU’s career rushing leader with 4,118 yards. In just two seasons, Perine ranks No. 10 on the career yardage list and needs 1,056 yards to surpass Sims. In his first two seasons, Perine has gained 1,713 yards (in 2014) and 1,349 last season.
“Knowing the running backs that have come through OU … I didn’t know that he needs 1,056 yards,” Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield said during Big 12 Media Days. “You talk about guys like DeMarco Murray and Adrian Peterson, kind of the more current guys that have had success and then you go farther back to Quentin Griffin, Steve Owens, Billy Sims, Silver Shoes (Joe Washington). You talk about guys like that and if he’s able to come out with the record, that’s pretty special.”
Mayfield, a Heisman Trophy finalist last season and on the short list of favorites going in 2015, has an outgoing personality. He doesn’t mind being surrounded by reporters and mini cams. And Perine is happy that his teammate is the center of attention.
“I’m not saying he’s cocky or anything, but I think he enjoys the spotlight,” Perine said. “I’m happy for him and very glad it’s him and not me. I don’t like talking about myself. I don’t like being in front of a camera.”
What the 5-foot-10, 230-pound Perine has accomplished in two seasons is remarkable. During his freshman season, the Sooners were a disappointing 8-5 with an inconsistent offense that relied on Perine. Against Kansas, he set the NCAA Division I single-game record with 427 yards.
And considering that Sims played in the run-oriented Wishbone offense, Perine has spent two seasons in an offense that is balanced but where the running game is only half of the scheme.
Last season, new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s job was to juice up the attack with an improved passing attack. Mayfield contributed greatly to the improvement and over the last seven games of the regular season, the Sooners averaged 52 points and 593 yards per game.
Perine played the second half of the season with a bum ankle that required off-season surgery. He estimates he was at 60 percent against TCU. With Mayfield out for the second half with a concussion, Perine gained 189 yards on 26 carries including a career-long 72-yard TD run as OU held on for a 30-29 victory.
“He’s always one to keep giving it all he can,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “I’m sure it’s easy to sit there and not go in, but he’s gonna go until he can’t. Sure. He’s as tough as I’ve had. And he’s about as strong as they get. Popeye’s got nothing on him.”
When Perine first showed up on campus, several Sooners thought he was somebody’s father. Baker Mayfield says that Perine with his full beard resembles a lumberjack.
“He looks like he’s about 40,” Mayfield said. “And then you put him in a weight room and he looks like he’s in the world lifting championships. He’s a freak.”
Two former teammates went with the super hero and the surreal when describing Perine. Former defensive end Charles Tapper said that Perine is “the Hulk and Superman.” Former running back Daniel Brooks said, “I saw him bench press a car one time in the middle of the night and he tried to act like he didn’t do it. He was curling the car too, I think.”
And while all those comments fall into the “apocryphal” category, there’s factual evidence to Perine’s strength. Like the time the weight coach loaded 225 pounds on the bench press and challenged the Sooners to do 10 reps of 10. Perine pumped ‘em out 100 reps. On the last five he locked eyes and stared down the doubting coach.
NFL.com’s database lists NFL Combine stats going back to 2006. No running back in that time has benched more than 32 reps at 225.
“The weight room has always been my second home,” Perine said. “When I don’t feel like doing anything else, I feel like lifting weights. That’s always been my fall-back. It’s done me pretty well so far.
“I still have to do whatever I have to do to help the team win. That’s what I’m here for. I’m not here to be the leading rusher at OU. That’s nice to say when I’m, like, 40. But for now, I don’t really care too much for it.”
Oklahoma junior Samaje Perine enters this season No. 10 on the Sooners’ all-time rushing list, but needs just 1,056 yards to surpass record holder Billy Sims.
|1. Billy Sims, 1975-79||4,118||53|
|2. Joe Washington, 1975-79||4,071||39|
|3. Adrian Peterson, 2004-06||4,045||41|
|4. Steve Owens, 1967-69||4,041||57|
|5. Quentin Griffin, 1999-02||3,938||44|
|6. DeMarco Murray, 2006-10||3,685||50|
|7. De’Mond Parker, 1995-98||3,403||21|
|8. Stanley Wilson, 1979-82||3,198||15|
|9. Greg Pruitt, 1970-72||3,122||38|
|10. Samaje Perine, 2014-15||3,062||37|