Will Pericak is no stranger to adversity. So when he was sitting at home on Sundays this football season without a team, the Boulder High grad may have been frustrated but he was not deterred.
Persistence and dedication to fulfilling a dream paid off at the tail end of the NFL season, when the 24-year-old defensive end showed the Jacksonville Jaguars enough potential that they signed him to a reserve/future contract at the end of December.
After being on the bubble for last spring’s NFL Draft and winding up as a rookie free agent, getting cut after the preseason by the defending Super Bowl champions and spending just a week on another team’s practice squad in September, Pericak feels he is in the best possible position as he looks toward 2014.
“For me, the best part just happened recently, being picked up by Jacksonville the last week of the season,” said Pericak, who set a school record for consecutive starts at Colorado after his prep playing days. “I went down there for a tryout, worked out for them and they liked me enough to sign me to the practice squad for the last week of the season. That was great because I hadn’t been anywhere for a while.
“Practice went great, and went through a week of preparation with them, did some drills against their offensive line. They liked what I did … the best part was offering me an offseason contract.”
This time last year, after the Buffaloes’ season was over and Pericak turned his eyes toward the NFL, there were not a lot of guarantees. He was not invited to the combine, and instead had to work out for individual teams. The weekend of the draft, he did not hear his name called — yet that was not the end of the story.
Seemingly at a fork in the road, Baltimore signed him soon after the draft for training camp and the preseason. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman played in the preseason contests but was not placed on the final 53-man roster. San Diego then picked him up, and he spent the first week of the regular season on the Chargers practice squad.
He was back in Boulder for the next several weeks, but he didn’t wait around for something to happen. He continued to work out every day, and every so often he’d hear from a team interested in his services. But, as he said, no one was willing to pull the trigger until later in the season.
It was a down time, sure, but Pericak is excited to be involved with a young Jacksonville team that will have the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft, a coach who will be in his second season and several star players in place.
“Very frustrating, seeing everybody else playing and it sucks sitting on the couch watching them,” Pericak said. “But it also motivates you, just to keep working out and working for that opportunity.
“I don’t see it as a rebuilding process (for Jacksonville), because they have a really good coach down there and a great owner and GM. They’re just waiting for the right opportunity, and being a part of that is the exciting thing for me. They’ve got the right setup to be a great team soon.”
To see Pericak play a down in the Jags’ first regular season game next fall will be a product of continued perseverance. The biggest battle he faces is against Type I Diabetes, which has him constantly having to monitor his body. But to make a 53-man pro roster will be the toughest task in his football career.
There is much excitement to begin the team’s offseason workouts in April, but Pericak said he wasn’t going to pass up on the team’s voluntary workouts before then, either.
“It looks as if I keep working hard and keep learning their defenses that I will be there for training camp,” he said. “Being with a few teams, you learn what coaches like to see and you learn why some guys make the practice squad and why some get cut. Being with a team during the offseason, there is a little more comfort. You still have to prove yourself to the coaches and to everyone.”
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