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May 20, 2008

Still scrambling, Perrilloux opens up

» Rivals.com Roundtable: Is Perrilloux's move to Jacksonville State surprising?

JACKSONVILLE, Ala.Ryan Perrilloux gazed at his new home field, a stadium that holds just 15,000 and serves as a stark reminder of how far he has fallen.

He was supposed to be the quarterback at LSU, the defending national champions, and in front of ear-splitting crowds of more than 92,000 at Tiger Stadium. Instead he expects to be playing inside Paul Snow Stadium, for Championship Subdivision Jacksonville State, against the likes of Alabama A&M, Southeast Missouri and Murray State. The Southeastern Conference seems worlds away.

Yet somehow Perrilloux managed a smile. Actually, he beamed.

"This school is perfect for me," he said during an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Sports. "It's in a small town. I'm surrounded by good people, good supportive people. It's just a great opportunity for my second chance at a college football career."

It might be the last chance to restore his image and regain the stature that made him the top-rated quarterback prospect coming out of high school in 2005 and prompted talk of his not only starring in college football, but also in the NFL. During a wide-ranging interview shortly after he arrived in Alabama, Perrilloux, who is 21 and has two years of college eligibility left, discussed for the first time in detail the series of events that contributed to his getting kicked off the LSU football team two weeks ago.

He also revealed that before last season, he was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and was prescribed medication to control symptoms such as anxiety.

Perrilloux said he was experiencing ear aches last summer and, when LSU's medical staff could find nothing wrong, he met with a psychiatrist who diagnosed his problem. The psychological disorder is commonly known as OCD and characterized by obsessive thoughts and rituals.

Perrilloux said the disorder led to his ear aches and anxiety.

"That's what was wrong with me because I always used to pop my jaw and used to pick at my skin, bite my nails," he said.

Growing up in Reserve, La., Perrilloux said a non-stop schedule of football, basketball and baseball masked the disorder. He said idle time at LSU, where he played sparingly during his three years, led to a sense of restlessness.

"That was the first time I knew I had Obsessive-Compulsive (disorder)," Perrilloux said. "Because I was always so busy, I didn't know I had it. They said that's a way to hide it."

Jack Crowe, head coach at Jacksonville State, said he learned about the diagnosis while doing a background check before he offered Perrilloux a scholarship. He also said he thought it helped explain Perrilloux's troubled stay in Baton Rouge, La.

"I think what you have is a little bit of a compound effect of several different things there," Crowe said. "Not the least of which is that he walked in there behind two pretty good quarterbacks and has been a guy that stood there and held the clipboard, and it's about to kill him. That'll change your character.

"Yeah, he ought to be able to handle that. He ought to be able to handle a lot of things. But you got all that compounded together."

Perrilloux downplayed his struggles with OCD and did not cite it as a cause of his well-documented troubles. Nor did he clear up all of the speculation that followed his dismissal at LSU.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

Perrilloux would neither confirm nor deny published reports that he failed a recent drug test, but his mother, Bobbie Breaux, told Yahoo! Sports that Perrilloux tested positive for a banned drug as a freshman and that a recent drug test detected "trace" amounts of a banned substance in her son. She said she did not know what the banned substances were.

"Is it true or is it not true?" Perrilloux said when asked about the drug tests. "I don't want to say no and I don't want to say yeah. I just want to say no comment and just move forward."

But he did discuss the series of problems he said contributed to his being dismissed by LSU.

On Jan. 13, six days after LSU beat Ohio State in the BCS championship game in New Orleans, Perrilloux was the only LSU player to miss a mandatory meeting. Perrilloux said he overslept and did not have enough time to drive from the apartment he shared with his girlfriend and get to the school's athletic building.

He said that, coupled with his missing three or four classes after skipping the meeting, led to his suspension from the team in February.

Already under intense scrutiny, Perrilloux faced fresh allegations in early April when news broke about an incident that had taken place at a restaurant in Baton Rouge. LSU's student newspaper, the Daily Reveille, reported that an employee from the Kona Grill said Perrilloux yelled obscenities and racial slurs, calling a waiter "Osama" before Perrilloux was asked to leave.

LSU coach Les Miles, according to an Associated Press report, said he has investigated the alleged incident, called the restaurant's management for information and let the management know the kind of alleged action is "not what (LSU) stands for."

Perrilloux said he was falsely accused of using racial slurs. He also said he would never utter racial slurs "because I'm a minority, too."

Despite the alleged incident at the restaurant, Perrilloux was reinstated after LSU's spring game in April and in time to accompany the team on its trip to the White House. He posed for a team photo with President Bush, who congratulated the Tigers on winning the national championship in an official ceremony.

Three weeks later, Miles announced in a press release he had kicked Perrilloux off the team.

"Ryan was given every opportunity to be a part of this football team," Miles said in a prepared statement released by LSU. "In the end, he didn't fulfill his obligation as an LSU student-athlete. We hope that a new beginning will benefit him."

ESPN and the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Perrilloux had failed a drug test in the days leading up to his dismissal. Declining to discuss those reports, Perrilloux said the missed team meeting, missed classes and, finally, struggles in English class ultimately led to his getting booted from the team.

"I kind of was missing English a little bit," he said. "Not really missing it, but the teacher reported that I was leaving class early. It was things like that and what happened is little things pile up and become big things …

"I had developed so much history from my freshman year, constantly not doing right things, constantly not being that right person. It took me to be dismissed from LSU to realize I have to be a person that does the right things all of the time."

CONTROVERSY BUILDS

Four years ago, Perrilloux had awed college scouts with his strong arm and mobility while playing for East St. John High School, and he then thrilled LSU fans when he reneged on a verbal commitment to the University of Texas and signed with the Tigers in February 2005. He announced his decision during a nationally televised news conference and, full of swagger, made an off-hand remark about how he planned to win four Heisman Trophies.

PERRILLOUX TIMELINE
December 2001: At the age of 14, Perrilloux was shot and the bullet narrowly missed his heart. A prank gone bad led to the incident, according to his high school coach and others. When Perrilloux's older sister returned home from a date, he apparently jumped out to scare her. Her boyfriend pulled out a 9-millimeter gun and fired. The bullet damaged seven internal organs, collapsed both of his lungs and left Perrilloux in the hospital for three weeks.
July 2004: Verbally committed to the University of Texas before the start of his senior season at East St. John High School in Reserve, La. Considered one of the nation's top prospects because of his strong arm and mobility.
February 2005: Reneged on commitment to Texas and signed with LSU during a nationally televised news conference on national signing day. Les Miles, on the job as LSU's head coach for less than two months after Nick Saban left the Tigers to take over as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, thrilled LSU fans by snagging the consensus high school All-American. During his high school career, Perrilloux amassed 12,705 yards – passing for 9,025 yards and rushing for 3,680 yards. He scored 155 touchdowns.
September 2005: Sat out freshman season at LSU as a redshirt.
September 2006: Played sparingly as third-string quarterback behind JaMarcus Russell, the eventual No. 1 pick of the 2007 NFL draft, and Matt Flynn.
January 2007: Questioned by law enforcement officials as part of investigation into counterfeit money. In November 2006, a friend of Perrilloux's had tried to buy candy at a store near his home in LaPlace with a counterfeit $20 given to him by Perrilloux's brother, Rance Scott, according to the New York Times. Perrilloux was not arrested or charged, but entered a pretrial diversion program. Scott pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government by possessing $1,000 in counterfeit bills and was sentenced to three years' probation and fined $500.
May 2007: Suspended from team and barred from summer workouts after being cited by Baton Rouge police for trying to use his brother's ID to enter the Hollywood Casino gambling boat in Baton Rouge, La.
August 2007: Reinstated to team before preseason drills began and was in running to succeed starter JaMarcus Russell before losing the battle to Matt Flynn, a senior.
November 2007: Held out of LSU's game against Alabama after his role in a fracas at the Varsity Theater nightclub on the edge of campus in Baton Rouge.
December 2007: In the SEC championship game, he started in place of injured quarterback Matt Flynn and led LSU to a 21-14 victory over Tennessee. Perrilloux completed 20 of 30 passes for 243 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also scored on a two-point conversion run in a victory that secured LSU a berth in the BCS championship game.
January 2008: Missed a mandatory team meeting a week after the LSU defeated Ohio State in the BCS national championship game. Miles had called the meeting to discuss, among other things, national championship rings, and Perrilloux was the only player to miss the meeting.
February 2008: Suspended from team for the third time in 10 months after violating team rules. Perrilloux had missed a series of team meetings, workouts and classes, according to published reports.
April 2008: Rejoined the team with what Miles called "full membership" a day after the spring game, despite reports that Perrilloux had been asked to leave a restaurant in Baton Rouge a week earlier for poor behavior. LSU's student newspaper, the Daily Reveille, had reported that an employee from the Kona Grill said Perrilloux yelled obscenities and racial slurs, calling a waiter "Osama" before Perrilloux was asked to leave. Miles said he has investigated the alleged incident, called the restaurant's management for information and let the management know the kind of alleged action is "not what (LSU) stands for."
May 2008: Was kicked off team. ESPN and the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Perrilloux had failed a drug test in the days leading up to his dismissal.
May 2008: Two weeks later, signed to play with Jacksonville State University, a Championship Subdivision school about 80 miles outside of Birmingham, Ala.
Sources: New Orleans Times-Picayune, New York Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Associated Press.
Those bold proclamations have not been fulfilled.

He sat out his freshman season as a redshirt. He played sparingly the next season behind starter JaMarcus Russell, the eventual No. 1 pick of the 2007 NFL draft, and backup Matt Flynn. And before the 2007 season, he lost a battle for the starting job to Flynn.

By then, public controversy that dogged Perrilloux had intensified.

In January 2007, he was questioned by law enforcement officials investigating a scheme involving counterfeit money. His older brother, Rance Scott, pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government by possessing $1,000 in counterfeit bills and was sentenced to three years' probation and fined $500.

Perrilloux was not arrested and he entered pretrial diversion that allowed him to avoid criminal charges.

The New York Times reported that in November 2006 Perrilloux had tried to buy gasoline at a convenience store near his home in LaPlace with a counterfeit $20 given to him by his brother. Larry Dauterive, who coached Perrilloux at East St. John High, said his former player unwittingly used a $20 bill to pay for gas and employees at the gas station later reported the bill counterfeit.

But in an interview Monday, Perrilloux said he, a cousin and a friend went to a Family Dollar store when the friend, who got the $20 bill from Perrilloux's brother, tried to use it to pay for candy. The employees realized the bill was counterfeit and the three young men left the store, Perrilloux said.

"When he got caught, I was like, 'You didn't know that was fake?' " Perrilloux said he recalled from the subsequent exchange with his friend. "He was like, 'Yeah, I knew, man. Your brother gave it to me.' I'm like 'Ooh.' He was like, 'That's why I'm in here buying gum, so I can get change.' And I was like, 'Oh, man. ' "

Perrilloux said he had to enter pretrial diversion, a six-month probationary period, because he was at the scene when the counterfeit bill was passed.

"I was sunk into the scene, like I was a person that was a part of the scene," he said. "I didn't get charged. I just got pretrial diversion … I've been finished with that. So I'm done. I don't have a (criminal) record. So they can't ever come back and get me or nothing because I'm finished with that."

But trouble flared anew in May 2007 when Baton Rouge police cited Perrilloux for trying to use his brother's ID to board a casino boat. Dauterive said Miles called him after the incident and the LSU coach told him he'd heard rumors of counterfeit bills being exchanged for gambling chips and then cashed in for money.

But Dauterive said nothing amounted to the rumors, and Perrilloux described the incident in May 2007 as an innocent misstep.

"I had just turned 20 years old," he said of the incident that took place more than five months after his Jan. 1 birthday. "I was like, 'Ah, me and my brother kind of look alike.' And I was like, 'Well, I'm going to try my luck.'

"So like the funniest thing in the world happened. While I was walking up to the guy to give him the ID, he knew me right away. He knew I was Ryan Perrilloux. And he took the ID and said 'This isn't you.' So me being the young kid, I was just like, 'That is me,' and he was like, 'Nah, that isn't you.' And then he called in his boss."

Perrilloux said he was taken to a back room and held until the police arrived. The police issued him a summons and he was escorted off the casino boat and allowed to leave in his own car, Perrilloux said.

He also said Miles had no choice but to suspend him for the summer because the incident followed his being questioned over the use of counterfeit money. Perrilloux was reinstated to the team at the start of preseason practice but found himself in more trouble during the season.

He was at The Varsity, a club on campus at about 2 a.m. on a night in late October, when a fracas broke out during a performance by a rap group featuring LSU defensive end Marlon Favorite. A witness alleged Perrilloux had a gun but later recanted and videotape from the club showed there was no weapon, Perrilloux's attorney, Nathan Fisher, told media outlets.

Perrilloux said he had a minimal role in the incident that started when another football player confronted a man in the club. The bouncers rushed to quell the brewing situation and, according to Perrilloux, one of the bouncers pushed his girlfriend, Geralle Blanks, who at the time was one month pregnant.

"What happened is one of them, they kind of shoved my girlfriend," Perrilloux said. "Not really hard, but enough for me to be like, 'Come on. ' Like, 'Man, what you doing?'

"Before I could do anything, I gave my girlfriend my keys and I told her to go home. And like while I was doing that, Marlon Favorite, who was performing, came off stage and grabbed me and brought me to the back. He didn't give me time to do anything."

Perrilloux said he and Favorite were standing outside, behind the club, when about two dozen men charged out of the back door and rushed them.

"What happened was, from what I hear, when I left outside the club a fight actually happened in the club," Perrilloux said. "And then they came out the club looking for anybody they could find. And then they saw me and Marlon.

"They ran at me but I was so fortunate because a police officer was driving up like right when they were trying to get on me and I got to the police officer. And the funny thing is people were claiming I had a pistol, which was false. I took a lie detector test and everything."

Perrilloux was held out of LSU's game against Alabama that next weekend. Four weeks later, he played a critical role on the team's path to the national championship.

Suffering from a shoulder injury, Flynn was held out of the SEC championship game. That thrust Perrilloux into the starting role when LSU faced Tennessee with a berth in the BCS championship game at stake.

Perrilloux completed 20 of 30 passes for 243 yards with one touchdown and scored on a two-point conversion run in a 21-14 victory.

Flynn returned to the starting lineup during the national championship game, and after LSU's 38-24 victory over Ohio State a photo captured him kissing the crystal championship trophy as purple and gold confetti fluttered down around him inside the Superdome in New Orleans. It was Flynn's shining moment. But because he was a senior and graduating, many imagined Perrilloux smooching the trophy in 2008, as a core of returning players raised hopes that LSU could win back-to-back titles.

OCD AT A GLANCE
What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of mental illness that causes repeated unwanted thoughts. To get rid of the thoughts, a person does the same tasks over and over. For example, you may fear that everything you touch has germs on it. So to ease that fear, you wash your hands over and over again.

OCD is a chronic, or long-term, illness that can take over your life, hurt your relationships, and limit your ability to work or go to school.
What causes OCD?
Experts don't know the exact cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Research suggests that there may be a problem with the way one part of the brain sends information to another part. Not having enough of a brain chemical called serotonin may help cause the problem.

Some experts believe that a problem related to infections, such as strep throat or scarlet fever, can suddenly bring on the disorder or make its symptoms worse in some children.
Source: Healthwise® Knowledgebase on Yahoo! Health
Two weeks ago, when Perrilloux was dismissed, those hopes were crushed.

He said he has no ill will and that Miles has helped him get situated at Jacksonville State after the two agreed Perrilloux should leave Louisiana.

"He really wanted it to work, and I really appreciate him for that," Perrilloux said. "I just couldn't get it right. I don't know why. I just couldn't. But I've learned from this."

STARTING OVER

Since leaving LSU, Perrilloux said, about 50 schools have expressed interest in signing him to a scholarship. Because he didn't transfer to a Division I school, he can play immediately. The scholarship papers he signed last week aren't binding until he enrolls in school at Jacksonville State and as of Monday Perrilloux said he still was being bombarded by calls from other schools.

But after an hour-long interview, Crowe arrived and sent Perrilloux to meet a man who expressed interest in hiring Perrilloux for the summer at a dental facility. He'll be expected to work and enroll in summer session that starts next month, and Perrilloux said that's exactly what he intends to do despite any other scholarship offers that come his way.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I'm a man of my word. I told coach Crowe I was coming. And the next day I signed and I'm here."

How long Perrilloux will remain in Jacksonville, whether he can stay out of trouble and if he can make it to the NFL are not the only unanswered questions. There's also the matter of his diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and how he intends to handle it.

Perrilloux said he stopped taking medication with doctor's approval and has the OCD symptoms under control. But his mother, a licensed practical nurse, said she and her son agreed he did not suffer from OCD and he never took the medication.

Crowe said he has yet to address the issue with Perrilloux.

"I understand OCD," Crowe said, "and I can tell you he needs to stay on his goddang medication."

Yet Perrilloux downplayed the issue as he sat in the Jacksonville State athletic building and looked out at his new home, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians, about an hour northeast from Birmingham.

His biological father died in February. His girlfriend gave premature birth to their 2-month-old daughter who is undergoing surgery for fluid in her brain. He went from a quarterback of near cult-hero status to one despised by many LSU fans who think he undermined not only himself but the Tigers' chances of winning back-to-back championships.

But Perrilloux appeared to put aside all of the heartbreak and disappointment as he focused on his future. Before entering a schedule that includes Chattanooga, Eastern Illinois and Tennessee Tech, Perrilloux and Jacksonville State are scheduled to open the season in a nationally televised game on ESPN against Georgia Tech in Atlanta – the site of Perrilloux's stirring performance in the 2007 SEC championship game.

"I'm excited to just kick the season off against Georgia Tech, to have an opportunity to just play my first game at my new school on ESPN," he said. "… A lot of people want to see me do well, and I don't want to let anybody down.

"That's why I came here."

» Rivals.com Roundtable: Is Perrilloux's move to Jacksonville State surprising?

Josh Peter is a writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Josh a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.



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