MOSCOW, Idaho – Kyle Perry represents the kind of well-rounded student-athlete a state school like the University of Idaho gets when its recruiting is on its game.
He is not merely a Vandal, but an Idaho Vandal, a product of his state.
The Vandals’ sophomore linebacker was all-state and all-conference about 130 miles up the road from Moscow at Sandpoint High School. A running back as a prep athlete, he rushed for 2,800 yards and 37 touchdowns, also played basketball, baseball and ran track, and was a member of the honor roll.
Perry’s first memory of Vandals football was attending a game in the Kibbie Dome in the third grade. He played on the field a couple of times in high school playoff games.
“The dome was no mystery,” Perry said.
After Idaho offered him a scholarship following a UI football camp before his senior year, Perry accepted.
“Once they offered me, I’m going there,” he said.
Playing under the dome roof as a Vandal, though, is different than playing there as a Sandpoint Bulldog. In front of a big crowd, such as at Idaho-Montana last season, the noise impressed Perry.
The Vandals saw Perry as a defensive player. Following a redshirt year learning to see football from that side of the ball, Perry began to build a career, first on the kick teams and recently as the backup to fellow sophomore Tre Walker at middle linebacker.
Walker is one of the Vandals’ heralded defenders, with 55 tackles through the first five games, including a dozen and a sack in Idaho’s most recent outing, a frustrating 27-24 loss to Northern Colorado. But Perry also collected a half-dozen tackles in that game.
Perry credits the defensive line for absorbing blocks and freeing him to make the hits. He points to the reasons he’s matured as a player and become an asset to Idaho’s defense.
“(It was) staying with the grind, getting ready to get to that point,” he said. “Having an opportunity and taking advantage of it.”
Things all came together in Idaho’s third game, at Wyoming.
“I felt prepared going into that game,” Perry said.
He recorded solo tackles against the Cowboys and the next week against Eastern Washington before his breakout against the UNC Bears.
As a teammate, he is an ambassador for his home state. Perry appreciates that friends and family can readily see him play, something not always available to teammates from outside the region. He has brought fellow Vandals home to Sandpoint.
“I’ve taken guys to go skiing and to see (Lake Pend Oreille),” he said. “It’s like Coeur d’Alene, but a little smaller.”
So far, everyone he has invited to go skiing has been experienced.
“But we’ve got a couple this year who have never skied before,” he said.
Turning them loose at Schweitzer will probably be akin to his own experience learning how Big Sky Conference football differs from the high school game in the Inland Empire League.
“You can never imagine the speed,” Perry said. “It’s another level. You’ve got to adjust.
“It is nice to have 10 other guys also trying to tackle someone rather than to be the one guy 11 people are trying to tackle.”
But playing running back had its moments.
“Sometimes, standing on the sidelines, I’ll see Nick (Romano, who rushed for 132 yards against Northern Colorado) or Aundre (Carter, who has rushed for 290 yards and four touchdowns in Idaho’s first five games) break off a 30-yarder, and it gets me going, reminds me of the old days,” Perry said.
But Perry sees things entirely as a linebacker when he looks forward to the Vandals (2-3) playing Saturday against Weber State, nationally ranked in the top five in two polls.
“They are going to try to run the ball,” Perry said of the Wildcats. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
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