Jets' Breshad Perriman, inspired by ailing dad, predicts breakout year

Breshad Perriman played the best game of his NFL career on Dec. 15, 2019, against the Detroit Lions, his father's old team. That would have been a pretty cool thing under ordinary circumstances, but what made it truly special was what happened that day at his parents' home in Snellville, Georgia.

His father, former NFL wide receiver Brett Perriman, sobbed in front of the TV.

Brett Perriman, who caught 525 passes from 1988 to 1997, has dementia and doesn't attend many games anymore. He recovered from a 2016 brain aneurysm that put him on life support, but the grip of dementia -- which his wife, Laundria Perriman, believes was caused by playing football -- has affected his cognitive abilities, Laundria said.

On that December day, though, Brett knew exactly what was happening. His son, whose short NFL career had already been marked by disappointment, erupted for five catches for 113 yards and three touchdowns in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 38-17 victory. Brett, 54, known on the field for his fearlessness, bawled.

"That was just beautiful," Laundria said in a phone interview. "It was a very sobering moment because in that moment, it was kind of like watching the fruits of his labor, because he coached Breshad from a kid. In that moment, to see his son doing great things against his old team that he loved so much ..."

Her voice trailed off, and she laughed.

"I'm watching him cry, and that's making me cry, and then I'm crying because my son is doing so well," Laundria said. "It was a very emotional moment."

It won't be easy to top that -- or his impressive stretch drive last season -- but Breshad Perriman will try to do so this fall as a new member of the New York Jets. This will be his fifth team in six years, not the way he imagined his career when he was drafted No. 26 overall in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2015, but he hopes last December was a harbinger for him.

"That was just a tiny glimpse," said Perriman, who signed a one-year, $6.5 million contract with New York. "I'm looking forward to building on that little run I had last season."

After a nondescript three months, Perriman was thrust into a larger role because of injuries at the position. In five games, he had 25 receptions for 506 yards and five touchdowns -- the only player in the past 15 seasons to have 500 yards, five touchdowns and 20 yards per catch in his team's final five games.

It caught the Jets' attention.

When the Jets lost Robby Anderson to the Carolina Panthers, they turned quickly to Perriman, a free agent. General manager Joe Douglas has a soft spot for Perriman because he was the Ravens' national scout when they drafted the receiver. Perriman missed his rookie season because of a knee injury and never found a groove in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The Ravens cut him before the 2018 season. He spent a few days with the Washington Redskins (no game action), then landed with the Cleveland Browns for a year.

"Obviously, his career trajectory was different than those first-rounders, but you've seen [his potential] in the back half of the season two years ago with Cleveland and then at the end of this year," Douglas said. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a wide receiver that had better numbers than Breshad."

Perriman might be faster than Anderson, which would make him one of the fastest in Jets history. He didn't run the 40-yard dash at the 2015 scouting combine because of a hamstring injury, but he ran a blistering 4.25 seconds at his pro day. A couple of scouts reportedly clocked him under 4.2, which is just insanely fast. He's not a wispy guy, either; he's a solidly built 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds.

Perriman, who should have a significant role in the Jets' offense, expects a breakout season.

"I have no doubt in my mind it's going to be definitely a season to remember for me as far as production-wise," said Perriman, who posted career highs last season with 36 catches, 645 yards and six touchdowns.

Not surprisingly, Perriman starred in track as a youth, but he eventually gravitated toward football, the family business. He was surrounded by terrific coaches, starting with his father. He also spent a lot of time with two Pro Football Hall of Famers -- Michael Irvin, his dad's roommate at the University of Miami, and legendary Lions running back Barry Sanders.

"That's all Breshad grew up around," Laundria said. "All I wanted him to do was have fun. My husband could see the potential, and that's what he wanted to cultivate and encourage. I just wanted to encourage him to have fun."

Breshad has experienced the ugly side of the game, both with his bumpy personal journey and his father's post-career struggles. As parents, it was hard for Laundria and Brett to watch their son battle the adversity, but they never lost faith. Brett kept coaching him up. Still does, dementia be damned.

"They talk before every game," Laundria said. "You have to catch those nuggets. Every once in a while, Brett will tell him something: Drop your hips. Remember to finish fast. The coach will come out of him. We wait for those moments. We grab on to it and run with it."

She prays her husband will overcome the effects of dementia, which robs him of his memory. This much she knows: He's excited about Breshad's fresh start with the Jets.

"It's been hard to get him to remember the team names," she said. "When he's with a team, you ask him every day: 'Who does Breshad play with?' Sometimes he doesn't come up with the name.

"Since he signed with the Jets, I ask him every morning, 'Who does Breshad play for?' He says, 'The New York Jets.' I'm like, 'OK, we're on to something here.'"