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Florida Football

Parental Perspective: Lamical Perine's mom saw this coming

November 28, 2018
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It was a blast from the past for Sabrina Haywood and what a blast it was.

For 74-yards, untouched, her son, Florida Gators running back Lamical Perine shot down the sideline, leaving a Florida State defense shell-shocked as he sprinted towards the endzone in what would go on to be a 41-14 Gators win.

Up in the stands his mom saw a glimpse of what her son—now a junior in college—used to do back home in Theodore, Alabama.

“It kinda took us back to high school cause he’s always made runs like that, so it was like a blast from the past for us. We were like ‘oh there he go.’ We were waiting on it,” Sabrina tells Inside the Gators.

Lamical waited on it as well, setting himself up behind two blockers and taking an outside lane away from the defenders that gave him an open field.

“He slipped through there, it was funny,” laughs Sabrina.

“He’s always had that vision, that’s the best thing about him as a running back is his vision.”

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But there’s also so much more; a former receiver in high school, Lamical has good hands for a running back and as such has been used as a receiver this season often, at least relative to a rusher. He has nine catches for 148 yards, 7th on the Gators team. He’s also become a nice treat for quarterback Feleipe Franks on a pitch option play the Gators favor against tough defensive fronts. It works more often than not.

“It’s just something I added to my game this offseason and I feel like it’s really helping me out to be a better playmaker. It’s helping the team as well. Anything to help the team, I’m ready to do that,” explains Lamical.

“He’s always better in space as well. That’s just always his thing. He’s always been able to catch and once he does you’re not going to catch him,” adds his mom.

Even with becoming a viable threat for short passes (and a long of 63 against Vanderbilt) and joining Jordan Scarlett as the first duo with 700+ yards in a season since Tim Tebow and Jeff Demps in 2009, the conversation concerning Florida’s running backs still seems to revolve so much around the redshirt junior Scarlett, freshman phenom Dameon Pierce and the return of a homerun hitter Malik Davis from injury.

“A lot of people forget that Perine has done a significantly good job in his years here at Florida and he's a great back, that's just what I like to call a big scat back,” said Jordan Scarlett back in August.

“He's a big guy but he's real shifty. And I think he's gonna do real well for us. There's a lot of teams and coaches that sleep on him and when he gets his chance I know he's gonna rise to the occasion."

At the same time, Sabrina was listening to her son and realizing the same thing.

“He said so much that was just nervous. Whenever he’s very nervous about something, you’re gonna get the best out of him. He was sooo nervous about this season…he was saying like ‘mom I been battling so much with the running backs, I just feel like this is my year.’

“I think it was mostly with the freshman coming in and the hype around Pierce and the hype around Scarlett coming back, he’s kinda always been the underdog so that’s what motivates him to do what he needs to do, it’s like he’s never been one to be in the spotlight or whatever so it makes him work harder.”

He has in fact risen to the occasion as Scarlett predicted, steadily building off of team leading 2017 season and currently sits at the end of the 2018 regular season with 750 yards and six touchdowns on 128 carries (averaging 5.9 yards per carry). For the second year in a row, his numbers are leading the Gators rushing attack.

It was the Mississippi State game when Sabrina saw a shift in the dynamic. He gained his first 50+ yard game on the ground while adding 24 yards in the air in a defensive slugfest. Since then he has built on each game.

“He kinda felt like the team—the coaches really saw they could trust him that game cause prior to that they weren’t giving him very many carries. It was kinda evenly split between him and Scarlett; it wasn’t really much he was doing so he kinda felt at that point he gained the coaches trust.”

That Perine is doing this with Pierce becoming such a spark that coaches have to play the freshman, and while splitting reps with Scarlett is what makes the numbers—like his three games of 100+ yards—stand out even more. Sabrina, who’s watched a lot of Lamical Perine football over the years, knows there’s even more.

“I always knew he had it in him. It wasn’t surprising to us, it was just about timing…to be honest I still don’t believe they’ve gotten the best out of him. They’re still so much more that people hasn’t seen…his work ethic, he’s not gonna ever give up. He’s always gonna do whatever he needs to do to make himself better and I think that’s what Scarlett feeds off of, him and Scarlett make each other better and when they’re together they say that all the time.”

That work ethic, along with a 200-yard game his sophomore year of high school, is what first made Dan Mullen and running backs coach Greg Knox take notice while at Mississippi State; so much so that State became Perine’s first SEC offer, a moment that Sabrina says made her realize this future for her son was real.

He seriously considered playing for Mullen and Knox even back then says Sabrina, but Gainesville felt like home and he couldn’t say no to Florida. Yet when Mullen was tapped as the Gators new head coach a year ago—and brought Knox on staff as well—Lamical saw fate work out, for him and his team.

“Of course he loves [Jim] McElwain and that staff cause they were like family. So to go back to Coach Mullen and Coach Knox, it was like ok this was meant to be. Initially he was thinking about going [to State] but it didn’t work out. He was like ‘Mom it wasn’t a good fit for down there, didn’t feel like home.’ But once the coaching staff changed he knew, he said ‘Mom I was meant to play for Coach Mullen.’

“This season has been such a great motivator for him cause he was waiting on some change. The coaching staff was so different so he wasn’t sure the team was ready for this coaching change and he wasn’t sure how focused they would be on having a good season. So I think it was really surprising for him as well and the team so they’re really in a good place, they’re in a really good place.”

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