Malcolm Perry, Navy's do-it-all offensive weapon, didn't think he'd ever be at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, let alone making an impact for the Midshipmen. You see, Perry, of all people, was an Army brat growing up in Fort Campbell on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. Yet, through nine games this season, it is Perry standing as Navy's leading rusher with 882 yards and seven touchdowns.
"I didn't know much about Navy or the Air Force growing up," Perry said in an interview with CBS Sports. "I was born in rural Tennessee. There's not much water nearby."
Perry's parents, Malcolm and Bonny, were longtime members of the 101st Airborne Division. As young adults, they joined the airborne infantry as a means to get out of their small towns and into a better life. That military life was imprinted on Perry, the youngest of six kids, who grew up on the base.
"Growing up, I thought being in the military was the coolest thing," he said. "I just always figured I would enlist, though I didn't know much about the academies themselves."
What Perry did know was that he loved sports. Basketball was his first love and a game he had been playing his whole life. But at age 9, Perry picked up football and never looked back. The gifted runner was a two-time all-state selection at Kenwood High School and by his senior year was picking up offers from Navy and Air Force.
"Up until my senior year, I didn't know I would be playing college sports," he said. "That threw a wrinkle in things when I realized I could play college football. My high school coach said Navy and Air Force called and wanted to talk to me about playing. I was extremely interested."
Perry's impact on Navy's option offense was evident by the end of his first year at the academy when he broke off a 30-yard touchdown run against Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl. As a sophomore in 2017, Perry became the Midshipmen's most dynamic offensive weapon as he split time between slot back and quarterback. He had four 100-yard rushing games and a pair of 200-yard rushing games, one of which came against Army West Point. In all, Perry's quickness and speed ended with him being the team's second-leading rusher with 1,182 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Now, as his third season at the academy winds to a close, Perry is simply living the dream of being a playmaker at the Division I level.
"My biggest dream growing up as a kid was scoring touchdowns in football," Perry said. "Joining a team that trusts me to do that is great. It's fun learning new positions and making plays knowing what the quarterback is thinking. I'm just extremely grateful."
Navy plays one of the best opponents on its schedule in Week 11, a road game at UCF, and Perry believes the Midshipmen will be prepared. At 2-7, it's been a down year for Navy, but Perry says the stressful situations that arise in football provide the best preparation for life after the academy.
"Obviously, I haven't been put in the stressful situations with the military yet, but I've heard stories," he said. "I've heard other officers say that football prepared them for a life in the military,"
When asked if he was also prepared for Army on Dec. 8 -- the Midshipmen have lost two in a row to their arch rival -- Perry declared, "Oh, yeah!"