Steven Perry's life changed that September day at the doctor's office three years ago. The back pain he'd been having after basketball and soccer, pain he tried to relieve with trips to the masseuse and chiropractor, was more serious than imagined. The diagnosis: stress fractures in his lowest vertebrae. The fix: four to six months in a back brace, no sports for that long or longer. "I was really miserable,” Perry said of his lost freshman year at Bishop McGuinness. His back was broken, but his spirit was not. "It was at that point that he decided he was going to play Division-I ball,” his father, Mike, said. His mother, Janet, said, "He had decided he was going to get better.” Now, Perry is more than better. He is the best. He will receive one of the Bob Colon Scholarships, presented by The Jim Thorpe Association and The Oklahoman to the top male high school scholar-athlete in the Oklahoma City area. Add it to an already impressive senior year. Winning state titles in football, track and soccer. Being named the soccer All-City offensive player of the year. Leading the state with 40 goals. Signing with Notre Dame. Finishing high school with straight A's. "He worked for this,” his father said. "He was determined.” Never more so than after he thought his career was over.Comments
Raised on competitionSteven Perry received his early soccer education in Chicago, where kids as young as 7 try out for teams. Competition was fierce even then, instilling dedication and cultivating passion. When Perry's family moved to Oklahoma when he was in sixth grade, he played basketball and swam along with playing soccer. No matter what he did, he was feisty. Heck, as the middle child with an older and a younger sister, Perry learned that behavior early. Once when Steven ranked seventh in his class, his older sister, Melissa, ranked 11th in hers. He reminded her of it time and again. "But there are smarter kids in my class,” she would insist. Perry always had to prove himself. That was never truer than when he injured his back. The problem began in his freshman year when his lower back muscles would tighten so badly he could hardly move. The pain got so bad that for a time, he couldn't stand sitting in the chairs at McGuinness. He had to stand in the back of the room during class. Doctors determined that the pounding his body took on the soccer pitch and the basketball court had caused his vertebrae to crack. They wanted him to wear a hard plastic brace that encased his midsection. The only time he could take it off was when he was sleeping. His back needed to heal, and he needed to rest and allow it to do so. "This was an injury that doesn't heal that easily,” said his mother, a former registered nurse. Janet Perry remembers talking to her mother, so worried about Steven. "Oh, honey,” her mother said, "he's more than an athlete.” "I know, Mom,” Janet said, "but he really loves to play.”
Double dutyDoctors finally gave Steven Perry the all-clear at the beginning of his sophomore year. He's been playing like never before ever since. As a junior, he joined the football team midway through the season. In desperate need of a kicker, the coaches convinced him to help them out. Then during conditioning one day, assistant Scott Stevenson was timing players in the 40-yard dash. The first time Perry ran, Stevenson said he'd clocked a 4.7. The next time, 4.6. The third time, 4.5. Stevenson later told Perry that wasn't true; Perry had run a 4.5 every time. The coach just didn't believe it. "Have you ever thought about running track?” Stevenson, who also coaches track, asked Perry. The coach convinced him not only to run but also to jump. Perry took on the extremely technical high jump and long jump. It's one thing to run. It's quite another to figure out how to launch your body 6-plus feet over a bar. All along, though, soccer remained Perry's focus. He would miss a track meet if he had a soccer game. He would practice track on his own instead of missing soccer.
One fine dayTo understand Steven Perry and what makes him tick, you must know about the day of the 2007 state soccer quarterfinals. Also the first day of the state track meet, Perry went to Moore that morning for the high jump. By noon, he'd won the event with a personal best of 6-feet-6. A few hours later, he ran in the 400-meter relay preliminaries before returning to McGuinness for the soccer game. All he did was score three goals in a 3-0 victory that night. "Not a bad day,” Worthington quipped. The next day, the track team capped it second consecutive championship. A week later, the soccer team won a title of its own with Perry scoring the game-winning goal. Not a bad week. Not a bad year either.
All about Steven Athletics Soccer All-City Offensive Player of the Year as a senior. Scored the game-winning goal in the Class 5A state finals. Led the state with 40 goals. Bishop Kelley Tournament MVP. Second-team All-City as a junior. Will play soccer at Notre Dame. State high jump champion and long jump runner-up as a senior. Also won gold in the 1,600-meter relay. First-team Little-All City high jumper, second-team long jumper. Member of back-to-back state championship teams. Two-year starting kicker in football. Played on Class 4A state championship team as senior. Academics Scored 29 out of 36 on ACT. Ranked among the top 10 percent in class of 145. Weighted grade point average of 4.4. National Honor Society. National Spanish Honor Society. AP Scholar. National Soccer Coaches Association of America Scholar All-American. More than 370 community service hours. College choice: Notre Dame Also nominated from Bishop McGuinness: Fiamma Felitch, Michael Sosanya