It took nearly an hour for Los Angeles Rams players to get into the locker room after Super Bowl LVI.
Many players stayed on the field to celebrate with family. Once they did get in the locker room, more celebrating took place as the Vince Lombardi Trophy was passed around.
When it got to Rams third-string quarterback Bryce Perkins, all he could do was stare and take it all in. Getting a chance to hold that trophy had been a dream of his for as long as he can remember.
Now, the Chandler High alum, who accomplished many feats while playing for the Wolves, can call himself a Super Bowl champion.
“It was such an amazing experience,” Perkins said. “Everyone was dancing around and celebrating. When I first grabbed (the trophy), I just thought about how hard people work for this moment. There’s a lot of individual awards we play for but when you start a season you sit down and assess how close you are to winning a Super Bowl.
“And for us to do it and when you grab the trophy you realize that you accomplished something a lot of people didn’t in their lifetime. It’s surreal.”
Perkins’ journey to becoming a Super Bowl champion is one that was met head on by bouts with adversity. It started when he first stepped foot at Chandler as a freshman. His older brother, Paul, played running back for the Wolves. He eventually went on to UCLA and played in the NFL.
With Paul there ahead of him, Perkins knew there was one ultimate goal every year for the Chandler football program: beat Hamilton.
Chandler lost 17 straight games to the Huskies. But when Perkins was handed the reigns, things changed.
Alongside the likes of former Chandler, Arizona State and current New England Patriot wideout N’Keal Harry and future NFL defensive back Chase Lucas, Perkins led the Wolves to a breakthrough victory over Hamilton in 2013. They went on to face the Huskies in the postseason and lost.
But the next year after beating Hamilton again in the regular season, Perkins led Chandler to its first title since 1949. That was the start of the dynasty and run of state titles that just recently came to end this past season. Garretson to this day still credits Perkins for helping change the culture of the program and build it into the powerhouse it is now.
“He was the one who led the way,” Garretson said. “Teams had no answer for him, and he made things look easy. He made things look effortless. All of the great NFL players, when you go back and look at what they did in high school, that’s exactly what they do. Bryce took the lead and led us over a hump we couldn’t get over.”
Perkins earned a scholarship offer to Arizona State after passing for 5,332 yards, rushing for 1,609 and scoring 97 total touchdowns in his high school career. He redshirted his freshman year for the Sun Devils.
While figuring to be in a three-way battle for the starting quarterback position the next season, tragedy struck. Perkins collided with then-Sun Devil safety Deion Guinard. He immediately felt pain in his neck and scans revealed he fractured the C4 and C5 vertebrae.
Surgery to fix the injury would have almost certainly ended his career. He chose to get a second opinion and let the injury heal. For months he was unable to lift his hands above his head, and he had to wear a neck brace that limited his mobility altogether. But it healed, and he was given a chance to play football again. But after being asked to change positions, he took a chance on himself and enrolled at Arizona Western College in Yuma.
“You truly get to know more about yourself when adversity hits you,” Perkins said. “Everything I’ve done in my life was on purpose and was a big factor into who I am today. All of those experiences, everything I went through, was necessary for me to become the player people see today. I’m grateful for all of it.”
Perkins led the Matadors to the junior college national championship game where they fell short to East Mississippi. He caught the eye of many Division I coaches. But one stood out to him: the University of Virginia.
He went on to break school records for the Cavaliers, passing for 3,603 yards and 34 touchdowns in his first season. He followed it up with 3,540 passing yards, 769 rushing and had 33 total touchdowns. He led the Cavaliers to the ACC title game along the way, further proving doubters wrong.
“When people outside of our family didn’t have faith in his ability, he had faith in himself,” Perkins’ father Bruce, who played in the NFL, said. “We knew what type of player, what type of quarterback he is. He’s got the Super Bowl ring now.
“It’s really cool to see him considering the path and journey he’s been on.”
Perkins declared for the NFL Draft after his second season at Virginia. He went undrafted but was signed by the Rams as free agent shortly after. All he needed was a chance, and he got it.
He opened the eyes of the coaching staff during preseason games and made the Rams’ official roster. He learned from the quarterbacks in front of him, including Matthew Stafford, who he said gave him a wealth of knowledge and how to further understand the game.
All of that led to the moment on the night of Feb. 13 in the Rams locker room at SoFi Stadium, where he had the Vince Lombardi trophy in his hands as he posed for pictures. It was something he had dreamed about and despite the adversity that stood in his way, he made it a reality.
“I’ve always believed that if your faith and what you believe in is stronger than the doubt, there’s nothing you can’t do,” Perkins said. “I think the only time people’s words and opinions effect you and the outcome of your dream and what you want to do is when you hold any truth to what they’re saying. But if you keep a mindset to what you want and hold that close to your heart, it doesn’t matter what anybody else says.”
Perkins credited his current and former coaches, as well as his family, for what he was able to accomplish. They are a close-knit bunch that always put the goals they wanted to accomplish in front of them.
For Perkins, that was to win a national championship in youth football, a state title in high school and even more in college and the NFL. He accomplished nearly all those goals, even when told by outsiders he couldn’t.
He and his Rams teammates were sized for their championship rings the day after their win over the Bengals. When he gets it, he won’t look at it as his personal accomplishment. It will be for everyone who helped him get to that point and supported him, including his parents and older brother.
“This is all of us. There’s no me without them,” Perkins said. “They’re happy for me and I’m glad they were there to be a part of it. My father and brother came down to the field after the game. It was amazing to have those guys there. They have been with me through everything.”