UCLA lineman and NFL prospect Conor McDermott talks bond with Giants running back Paul Perkins:
Conor McDermott knew Paul Perkins was special from their first practice together at UCLA.
The 6-foot-8, 307-pound offensive lineman is here in Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine, a process Perkins went through a year ago before his selection in the fifth round. McDermott's eyes lit up when he heard his former teammate's name during Thursday's media availability.
"That's my guy," he said moments after completing the bench press.
McDermott is a year older than Perkins, but after grayshirting for a season, he came in with the running back's recruiting class. Their careers really took off in 2014 when McDermott started the final seven games of the season at left tackle and helped pave the way for Perkins, who became the first Bruin to lead the Pac-12 in rushing since 2001. His 1,575 yards rushing were the second-highest total in UCLA history.
"I knew it from when he started playing," McDermott said. "Ever since Day 1, I knew he was special. He made something out of nothing when we didn't have good blocks, or when we did hit up a good play, I knew with him behind us, we were going to score a touchdown."
Before he declared for the draft, Perkins had moved up to third on the school's all-time rushing yards list (3,491) and finished fifth in all-purpose yards (4,236). McDermott credited Perkins' work ethic and personality, which he called "contagious."
"My favorite memory is just celebrating with him after his touchdowns – picking him up or just dogpiling him," McDermott said. "Off the field, every second hanging out with him was great, whether it was a cookout or just going to the movies; you're always laughing."
Added McDermott: "He's just the nicest guy, one of the hardest workers. Every day he came to work. Me and him are both kind of quiet guys but leaders by example. That's what we both prided ourselves on. We missed him this year, but he's a great running back. I'm not surprised he's doing so well at the NFL level."
That's where things start to ramp up.
Last week the Giants released veteran running back Rashad Jennings, emphasizing the team's faith in Perkins moving forward. Perkins made his first two starts in the regular-season finale (21 carries for 102 yards) and the first round of the postseason (10 for 30). He finished the regular season with 112 attempts for 456 yards and 15 receptions for 162 yards. However, he is still looking for his first NFL touchdown.
"Paul is a guy that we have confidence in," coach Ben McAdoo said Wednesday in Indianapolis. "He missed all offseason last year because of the rules that are in place with rookies and he came into training camp and really had to catch up in a hurry. He had some success with special teams early and ended up being a nice ball carrier for us and grew in protection as well. But again, he needs to come back, he needs to get better and he can get better and I know that he is working to get better right now."
In between his offseason training, Perkins has sent a few text messages over to McDermott in Indy.
"He said, 'Good luck, hang in there, it's a long week, but it's a great experience.' And he's right," McDermott said. "It's been an unbelievable experience and a good opportunity."
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