“The Green Bay Packers have signed TE Justin Perillo to the active roster from the practice squad…” read the NFL press release from Saturday November 15, 2014. Many in Delaware cheered for the big undrafted rookie (6’3″, 250 lbs.) who hails from the second smallest state in the Union.
Those folks remembered Perillo starring in both football and basketball at The Tatnall School in Wilmington. Teaming with his older brother Jason, Justin’s Tatnall Hornets won the 2005-2006 state basketball title in an overtime thriller versus Caravel Academy. Perillo ended his basketball career as a 1,000-point scorer and the Delaware Player of the Year as a senior in 2009. But it was his football skills that drew most of the attention from out-of-state scouts representing FCS schools.
Perillo played TE, LB, and DE for four seasons at Tatnall. He served as a team captain as a senior and earned first-team all-state honors. Those skills led him to the University of Maine. He became a full-time starter in his sophomore year (2011) in Orono. In his senior season (2013) as a tight end, Perillo became an All-CAA first-team pick, had 39 catches for 490 yards, and scored four touchdowns for the conference champion Black Bears. He was named an FCS second-team All-American by The Sports Network; earned third-team All-America honors from The Associated Press; and won the College Football Performance Awards’ Elite Tight End trophy.
Those accolades drew the attention of some pro teams and Perillo was signed by Green Bay as a non-drafted free agent on May 12, 2014. He played in only two games as a rookie, seeing limited action on offense and special teams.
Released at the end of the 2015 Packers training camp and signed to the practice squad for the second straight year, Perillo has made the most of his October 14 promotion to the 53-man roster. He has experienced a lot more game action and has contributed more to the offense this time around.
Perillo opined: “It does stink that you get cut, but you just have to keep working hard. There are a lot of bumps in the road. You just have to overcome them.”
He wears No. 80 for Green Bay, which was once worn by Hall of Fame wide receiver James Lofton and Packers legend Donald Driver. Only time will tell if Perillo’s career will be mentioned alongside those two stalwarts, but he has begun to contribute and become a reliable target for two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Perillo made his first NFL reception in Week 6 on a 21-yard pass against San Diego. But Week 10 was when he rose to the occasion on the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field and made a name for himself. Perillo had 5 catches for 58 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown against Detroit. For his score, Perillo ran a crossing route over the middle at the goal line and Rodgers fired it to him for an 11-yard TD with 32 seconds left in the game. While the Packers eventually lost to the Lions, Perillo was upbeat with his expanded role and confidence on the gridiron.
“That’s awesome, [Rodgers] having confidence throwing you the ball,” Perillo said. “You just have to run your route and he’ll put the ball there. I just have to make the catch.”
Perillo is hoping for more personal and team success this season for 6-3 Green Bay. After the season he will return to his home in Wilmington, Delaware and prepare for the 2016 NFL season. But until then, he’d like to continue being a contributor on a winning professional football team and making the folks back in Delaware proud of his play. Maybe even a trip to the NFL Playoffs is in his immediate future…