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John Shinn | The Norman Transcript | July 22, 2016

The background is where Perine prefers to be

  Perine has rushed for over 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns in just two seasons.

Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine looked to his left and saw a young girl sporting an Oklahoma jersey with No. 6 on the front and "Mayfield" on the back. And he smiled. The girl wanted an autograph from Baker Mayfield -- the Sooners' most recognizable player.

About two hours later at the Dallas Omni, a relaxed feeling hit the jovial running back as he looked to his left, eyeing a mob of reporters engulfing the quarterback.

"Stuff like this I don't like. I think he enjoys the attention," Perine said. "I'm not saying he's cocky or anything, but I think he enjoys the spotlight. I'm happy for him and very glad it's him and not me."

It's part of the interesting dynamic between the essential pieces of OU's offense and team. Perine has rushed for over 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns in just two seasons.

By any account, he's the most accomplished player in the Big 12 Conference and should be one of the most recognizable. In Oklahoma, he certainly is. There are still people walking around in "Optimus Perine" T-shirts.

But the spotlight Perine received as freshman was unnerving to him. He accepted that the shy guy from Pflugerville, Texas, had to be in the spotlight. The lights became incredibly bright after set the NCAA single-game rushing record in just his 11th collegiate game.

"Once I get exposed to something, then it's just second nature to me," he said. "Even though I don't like it at all, I learn to deal with it and make do with it and find some way to make it somewhat enjoyable."

Perine could demand much more attention if he chose that path. Back in 2014, OU struggled to an 8-5 season. About the only thing fans felt optimistic about was him.

Last season, OU coach Bob Stoops went against the grain and brought offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to install an Air Raid offense. Seemed odd when the only thing OU did well the previous year was hand or pitch the ball to its 235-pound freshman running back and let him go.

The 2015 season got off to slow start. But Riley's offensive intellect came to the forefront when he tailored it to fit Perine in the second half of the season.

Still, the accolades went Mayfield's way. He threw 36 touchdowns passes and rushed for seven. His "Artful Dodger" antics on the field was impossible to overlook.

But Perine needs just 1,056 to pass 1978 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims as the Sooners' all-time leading rusher. Just 61 in the Sept. 3 season opener against Houston elevates him past College Football Hall of Famer Gregg Pruitt.

"I just found that out today. I thought it was one of the most special things ever. Knowing the running backs that have come through OU ... I didn't know that he needs 1,056 yards," Mayfield said. "I'm going to feed him and let him run a little bit. I know he's not worried about it at all. But I'll let him do his work and let him do his thing."

Perine believes he's stronger and faster than ever. The January ankle surgery is healed. Making it through the entire 2015 season without missing a game was the feat of the year.

"He's always one to keep giving it all he can. I'm sure it's easy to sit there and not go in, but he's gonna go until he can't. Sure. He's as tough as I've had," OU coach Bob Stoops said.

Perine would never say that. The humility runs too deep for it to come out.

Mayfield will talk for him. He informed the media horde a welt forming on his backside from a playful slap from Perine.

He still doesn't know his own strength, but there isn't a more respected guy in the Sooners' locker room.

Mayfield understands for that fact to get out, it has to come from someone that Perine.

"He hates being here right now. He hates answering questions to the media because he's very humble. He's a quiet guy. He's very reserved," Mayfield said. "That's the kind of leader that he is. People think because he's in the spotlight and breaks records and stuff like that that he is a very vocal guy. But no, it's very much the opposite. He leads by example and he always does the right things and he handles himself very well."

If being introverted is someone's only personality flaw, then Perine's life is going to turn out just fine.

This article was written by John Shinn from The Norman Transcript, Okla. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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