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IOWA CITY — Travis Perry has worked his way up on the Iowa football team. The junior from Urbandale began his career as a walk-on. He earned his way to some special teams units, worked up to No. 2 outside linebacker and put himself in position this season to assume the starter’s role.
He and his family are ready for wherever that takes him. It’s a huge challenge for any college athlete. They know there will be ups and there will be downs.
They will be ready. This ride is minor compared to the one that Russ Perry, Travis’ dad, began earlier this month.
On the Fourth of July, the 55-year-old pilot and member of the Army National Guard was deployed to Afghanistan. It’s his first tour of duty. Travis said Wednesday that the family knew this day was coming, it just happened to arrive when he has the chance to make his move on the football field.
“He’s got a little over a year until retirement,” Travis Perry said Wednesday. “It being my junior season, it’s probably not the best timing. You know, he’s in the Army and he’s there to defend our country’s freedom and that’s what he’s going to do.”
And that’s the note Travis hits. He spoke freely on the topic Wednesday. It’s a bummer he won’t be able to see his son play live at Kinnick Stadium, but it’s a call to duty.
“It’s always tough to say goodbye for now, but he’s in the Army National Guard for a reason,” Perry said. “There’s always the possibility. We’ve been at war for a while now.”
Russ Perry will fly a C-12 Beechcraft King Air, Travis said. Russ is in Texas training now and leaves for Afghanistan on Friday. He’ll be in the Mideast for nine months.
“It’s hard,” Travis said. “He’s one of my biggest supporters and biggest fans. Being in a position where I might play more this year, it’s extremely tough. We’ll definitely be sending him some DVDs. He’ll have some soldiers over there who are Hawkeye fans watching.”
Travis Perry should be Iowa’s No. 1 outside linebacker. He held the position through spring practice until he suffered a concussion and had an illness where he lost 12 pounds. Redshirt freshman Josey Jewell replaced him.
Outside linebacker is a hugely important position in Iowa’s defense. This player has a run with wide receivers, cover tight ends and running backs and play downhill against the run. Christian Kirksey rode it for all it was worth the last two seasons and ended up a third-round NFL draft pick this year to the Cleveland Browns.
Where Perry goes with it remains to be scene. He was awarded a scholarship this spring and has certainly earned his shot.
“First and foremost, Travis joined us as a walk-on player,” outside linebackers coach LeVar Woods said this spring. “He’s put himself in position to compete for playing time from the moment he stepped on campus. He did that by being smart and just his athleticism.”
Russ Perry will probably miss his son’s junior season. Right now, he’s not scheduled to return home to Iowa until April 2015. There’s a chance it could be January, but Travis said it’s hard to say for sure.
You can hear the pride in his voice when he talks about his dad.
“It’s extremely humbling, you know, at his age, to say goodbye for now,” Travis said. “For him to go over there and fight for our country, it makes me extremely proud.”
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