Where are they now: Chris Perez
This week Jayhawk Slant catches up with former Kansas offensive lineman Chris Perez, who played at Kansas from 1988 - 1991. After Kansas, Perez was drafted by the Miami Dolphins and had brief stints with the New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers. Perez found success in the CFL and was a key contributor in helping Toronto win their first Grey Cup. Perez would go on to play for Winnipeg and British Columbia before finishing his career with the XFL's Chicago Enforcers in 2001.
After football, Perez got into insurance restoration and worked for former teammate Bill Sutter's father. The company would soon be bought out by Belfor and Perez would work there for seven years before starting his own business with Bill Sutter. He currently lives in Overland Park has been married to his wife Jode for 19 years and has four kids.
Was playing in the NFL what you imagined it to be like?
No. In high school and college - and I don't mean to say this arrogantly - but I wasn't used to getting beat. In the NFL you do get beat and sometimes badly. The players who are successful don't let that stuff fester in your brain. You figure out what you did and get back up and get going. As for the physical part, I was good enough but I wasn't a physical specimen. I had a sound game but athletically I was no superhero.
What was your favorite memory of playing in the NFL?
I can't really give you a favorite moment in the NFL because I didn't really get to play. I was just a guy on the roster. I was just trying to have a job. I tell people that playing in high school it's a game, in college it's a sport and if you fortunate enough to play in the NFL it's a business. Everyday you walk in you are wondering if you have a job. It's a high stress intense situation. Not saying it's all bad but you are newly married and knowing any day you could be out of a paycheck, that was a hard adjustment for me.
What was it like playing in Canada?
It was just an incredible experience. In Canada I think I started 112 games, made four all star teams and won two Grey cups. Up there it is a little different but I think they appreciate the game a little bit more. After Canada I thought the XFL was a lot easier. The speed of the game is faster and the physicality is what separates the American game.
Again, whether it was 10 dollars or 10 million dollars it is such a privilege to be able to play the game and got to see the world doing it. I was sort of lucky as my wife was used to this lifestyle because growing up her dad was a pastor and fortunately my kids were young at the time and it was still work for her but she enjoyed seeing the world.
What made you want to help start a business?
When you are an athlete there is always a season and a win/loss record and a championship . When I left football I was looking for something to compete on a scoreboard for. When I retired I had three kids so I wasn't going to be able to go to Sprint and have a 35,000 year job and support my family.
My last two offseasons Bill brought me in and showed me the ropes and shared a lot of knowledge. He was a running back at Lawrence high and a defensive back at KU and we would always text each other and I say that I am the left tackle and he is the running back so if I do my job then he gets the glory and people know his name. People will come and generate business because they know Bill Sutter and I am his left tackle. I love blocking for him and if he looks good our company looks good and everybody is happy.
Talk about why you chose Kansas out of high school?
I was a kid out of Chicago so my dream was to always play at Michigan. I had done everything but commit to Michigan but Kansas was just relentless in recruiting me. At the time I knew nothing about Kansas but the coach recruiting me was Rocky Alt and he was relentless, kind, and my parents really liked him. The biggest thing that stood out to me was in the fall of 1986 after my senior season had ended I heard my name being paged to meet with the athletic director and it was the first day that college coaches could come meet with you on campus. When I walked in I saw sitting down was Bob Valesente. I had seen his picture and talked with him over the phone but I had never met him. He told me, 'Chris, I just want to let you know that at this moment I could be anywhere in North American but I am here because I want you to come to the University of Kansas,' and I was just blown away because here is this Division I head coach and he came here to see me before anyone else.
I still didn't commit and had to go through all my different trials. A week or two before signing day Michigan called me and told me they were going to go in a different direction. At that point everybody had filled up their spots and Kansas was relentless and finally a week or two after signing day me and my dad decided to go down. It had a significant impact on me and I told them give me a week to think about it. A week went by and God was telling me this is a place you can go. Little did I know that I would be here for most of my life but that is the short version of it.
Talk about the change from Valesente to Glenn Mason?
The new coaching staff was completely different. I remember loving Val because he was a genuine guy and not a mean bone in his body, but no disrespect to Val but he was probably a better position coach than he was a head coach. Years later when I went to Green Bay when he was there it was the first time I had seen him since then and he embraced me like a son.
Mason was an old school in your face run you out of town type of guy. The way Mason ran that staff was that the coaches were approachable but he kept that distance and he would be mad if you didn't go through the right channels before you saw him, you had to go through your coaches first. He was sort of on a pedestal. My coach was Pat Ruel and I have never had a better coach. Me and Mason grew a mutual respect for one another. Halfway through the season the coaches would get together and put a wager on a kid who they thought was going to run off and quit because he couldn't handle it. Mason would tell me a year later that he had chosen me to quit and not only did he lose the bet but I would go on to start 44 games for him at left tackle. He would love to tell that story and he would say that I proved him wrong and he had never been so happy to be wrong. He and I have a great relationship.
Why was Pat Ruel your favorite coach?
One thing Pat Ruel would always say is the greatest coaches at any level are the ones that don't forget what it is like to be a player. The last seven years I have helped coach at Shawnee Mission Northwest football, and you have to draw that line between coach and player because the coaches who are too buddy buddy with their players are never good coaches. Generally when it is 95 to 100 degrees outside I have a long sleeve shirt on, my sweat jacket and maybe a sweatshirt on and I will be sweating like a pig and absolutely drenched.
They are out there with full pads and helmets on and the best way for me to relate to them is to expose myself to some of the adversities that they face. Now granted I am old so I got to throw water on my head or I will get light headed [laughs] but that's what Pat used to do he would wear a sweat jacket out there and when it gets cold I will be out there with shorts to face the adversity to try and remember what it's like and what they are going through.
Pat and I still talk and if I was ever in dire straits he would be one of the people I would pick up the phone and call and he would ask what he could do to help. He always preached on focusing on the big picture and I never just focused on my own job but the whole offense. I remember my last season he pulled me into his office and told me that football wasn't going to last the rest of my life. I told him that I wanted to coach and he said, 'No you don't.' He went over to shut the door and told me to sit down. He said that he has one kid and he loves her to death and I have one on the way and I will probably have more. I said, 'yean'. He said knowing my family and me the way I was that I would promise him that I would never coach. I told him I couldn't promise him that. I asked him about high school and he said high school was okay but stay out of college and the pros. He said, 'I know you and the way that you are wired. Your family means too much to you.' I told him I would just coach high school and looking back after being in the pro game I don't think I would've like it. Every year you have to move you and your family and that would be impossible. A lot of the coaches just leave their families and they see them once every six months.
What is your favorite story that
happened while you were playing at Kansas that never got out in the public?
There was a walk-on in the fall of 1989 on our team who was like Rudy. Mason would always make some remark about him in practice about his effort but he hardly ever got in a game. Every week - and I wish I remembered the kid's name - but Mason would tell the team that one game he was going to win a game for us because of his effort.
I would always joke with him, 'Hey, remember you are going to win a game for us,' and we would joke back and forth. In the fall of 1989 we were at Missouri and he was on the punt cover team and this kid came up with the fumble and we would go on to win the football game. I remember I ran out on the field and pointed at him and he was pointing at me and I told him he was going to win us a football game. The fact that Mason noticed the effort of some kid who had no business being on a football field and that kid believed because Mason stayed on him every week.
What do you think of the Charlie Weis hire?
From a PR standpoint I think it's huge. To pull that off undercover I thought that was pretty amazing. I was originally pulling for Leach and didn't even hear Charlie's name come up. Charlie was on the staff when I was at New England years ago and he was quite a bit younger then so I got to know him and he was Bill Parcells whipping boy. Charlie has really proven himself especially in what he has done on the recruiting end.
Also getting Tim Grunhard in there as he has certainly proved himself as a high school coach. His personality lends itself to great recruiting and I think it is already starting to take effect. He is very qualified and capable of being a good college coach so far so good. To be honest I never wanted to see Mangino go and where KU football was when he left was worthy of someone with a little more credentials than Turner and I was rooting for Turner. I think for as low as the program has gotten for them to pull off getting Charlie Weis says a little something about the school and the athletic director.