The buzz surrounding Colt Lyerla can make it easy to forget he wasn’t the only rookie tight end the Green Bay Packers recently signed.
Justin Perillo probably prefers it that way.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound native of Wilmington, Del., enjoyed a productive three-year stint as a starting tight end at the University of Maine before signing with the Packers for a $2,000 bonus roughly an hour after last week’s NFL draft ended.
The Detroit Lions also came in with an offer, but Perillo chose the Packers based on how many undrafted tight ends have made their active roster in recent years.
It was an angst-ridden wait, but not really a surprise to Perillo, who’s used to being overlooked. The Big Lead sports blog even made a “Diary of a Draft Underdog” video series on him, documenting his predraft preparation. Watch it here.
“It was all new to me,” said Perillo, who caught 39 passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns last season. “I didn’t talk to anybody about it because none of my friends have ever been through this before. A couple guys from Maine, but I haven’t talked to them about it.
“I was expecting a call, but then I waited 40 minutes, and that 40 minutes was just really silent in my house. Nobody was saying anything and I was getting really nervous, and once I got those calls, I was really excited.”
Perillo played with former Black Bears safety Jerron McMillian, a fourth-round pick by the Packers in 2012, and understands NFL success isn’t dependent on what college you attended or whether you were drafted.
Just look at Brandon Bostick, a former receiver at NCAA Division II Newberry College who made the roster as a tight end out of training camp last season. A month later, Ohio State’s Jake Stoneburner was called up from the practice squad.
“I don’t think I’m at any disadvantage,” Perillo said. “At Maine, our coach had us playing a big school. My senior year, we played Northwestern, and they were 16th in the country at that time, and then we played UMass, so we definitely played the big competition. It just means I have to work harder each day and just get down my techniques.”
He played special teams his first year at Maine and remained the team’s snapper on field goals and point-after attempts, and the backup snapper on punts. That’s a role the Packers value out of their tight ends: veteran Ryan Taylor spelled Brett Goode last season.
Perillo hadn’t mentioned anything to the coaching staff about his snapping background, but joked that he’ll bring it up soon. Right now, he wants to work his way up the seven-man depth chart at tight end.
On Monday, the Packers cut another tight end, Raymond Webber, to make room for Lyerla on the 90-man roster.
“It definitely is open for everybody,” Perillo said. “You just have to put in the hard work each and every day.”