Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson coach Chip Killian first got a good look at Samaje Perine more than three years ago.
Killian was looking for special teams help as his team entered the playoffs and decided to give the freshman who hadn't seen any time with the varsity a shot on the kick coverage unit.
The result was three tackles on five kick-coverage attempts and the realization that Perine had a chance to be a special player.
That's exactly what Perine has become, rushing for 1,993 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior.
In March, the longtime Alabama fan turned down an offer from the Crimson Tide to commit to Oklahoma.
Perine grew up in Jackson, Ala., before moving to Texas.
Early playing time was a deciding factor in Perine choosing Oklahoma over Alabama and TCU.
“Alabama is a great school, but they just have so many back right now and they're going to have a lot of great backs when I graduate,” Perine told ESPN.com. “There wasn't a need for me there.”
That isn't the case in Norman.
After this season, the Sooners lose their three top running backs — Damien Williams, Brennan Clay and Roy Finch — to graduation.
None of the other running backs currently on the roster has seen any playing time entering this season.
“I think he's definitely got it in him to play right away,” Killian said. “When he gets there, it might take him a week or two to catch up to the speed of everything but there's no doubt in my mind that he can come in and play right away there.”
Hendrickson has produced plenty of productive running backs for the Big 12 in recent years in Texas' Daje Johnson and Texas Tech's Kenny Williams. Both played as freshman.
Perine — and Killian — were also impressed with the way the Sooners handled his recruitment.
“Coach (Cale) Gundy did a great job of building a relationship,” Killian said. “He handled it in a professional way. It wasn't a high-pressure thing and he didn't tell him stuff just to get him to commit.”
Perine broke out as a sophomore but his season ended with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in the second round of the playoffs in a game Hendrickson lost.
But Perine came back just fine.
“He's just an extremely powerful kid,” Killian said. “He benches 415 pounds and squats, I don't know, 550-600 pounds. He's got great hands.
“I'd love to play him at linebacker if he'd let me. But he wants to carry the rock.”