In his two years with the program, Bryce Perkins helped to rejuvenate Virginia football

ERIN EDGERTON/THE DAILY PROGRESSVirginia offensive tackle Ryan Nelson (54) lifts quarterback Bryce Perkins (3) in the air while celebrating a touchdown during the the Orange Bowl against Florida on Monday at Hard Rock Stadium.

Bryce Perkins takes the snap, gets flushed right, sees a Florida defender on all fours, hurdles him, throws a stiff arm and fires a touchdown to Hasise Dubois in the back of the end zone.

For most quarterbacks, that’d be the best highlight of their career. For Perkins, it’s just another play on his Virginia highlight tape.

Perkins finished the Orange Bowl with 323 passing yards and four touchdowns against a Florida defense that hadn’t allowed 300 passing yards or four passing touchdowns to any team all season. One of those came on his remarkable scramble drill touchdown to Dubois.

Perkins became the first quarterback to throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns against the Gators since Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs did so in September of 2016. Dobbs now plays quarterback in the NFL.

Two years ago, Perkins was an unheralded recruit playing at a junior college. He didn’t receive national attention, and he certainly wasn’t playing in nationally televised and meaningful games. That’s a far cry from how Perkins’ college career ended. Perkins took a leap, leaving his JUCO in Arizona for Charlottesville.

Virginia fans, coaches and players are sure glad he did.

Perkins is, too.

“I am happy that coach came all the way out to Arizona and recruited me,” Perkins said. “Didn’t know what kind of culture I was getting into when the first call came, but to come out here with guys like [Hasise Dubois] and all the things that we’ve done together and the relationships that we’ve built, and you can see it on the field just how hard we fight for each other.”

Perkins didn’t just become the starting quarterback at the University of Virginia. He elevated the entire football program, on and off the field.

He amassed more yards in two seasons than any Virginia player had in four. Shawn Moore held the total offense record with 7,897 total yards. Perkins finished his illustrious career with 7,910. He was explosive, both on the ground and through the air, despite battling a few injuries in his final campaign.

Explosive, game-altering plays led Virginia to a 9-5 record in 2019, a win over Virginia Tech and an ACC Coastal Division title. In the win over the Hokies, Perkins accounted for 475 yards and three touchdowns. In the game most meaningful to the Virginia program, Perkins delivered one of the best performances of his life.

Without Perkins, Virginia’s offense had little going for it in 2019. The offensive coaches admitted they needed Perkins to create off scrambles to be the best offense possible. Some of Virginia’s best plays were unplanned, including his touchdown to Dubois in the Orange Bowl. It’s just who Perkins is as a football player.

“I continued to be amazed by Bryce Perkins,” Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall said after the Orange Bowl.

Dazzling plays created by remarkable athleticism are a staple of Perkins’ game. His running ability paired with continually improving passing ability, makes him a special quarterback.

Off the field and in the locker room, players and coaches rave about Perkins. They discuss his ability to galvanize a locker room. With Perkins at the helm, everyone on the team believes they can win. He’s a gifted athlete, but those around him say he’s a better leader and person.

“Man, I can’t say enough good things about him,” receiver Terrell Jana said. “Everyone knows what he does as a player, but I think his biggest quality is the kind of person he is. That’s an honor to be beside him in the locker room every single day, and not just on Saturdays, but the Monday mornings, the type of leader he is, the type of person he is, he was an amazing addition to this team and this program.”

In the coming months, Virginia will work to replace one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the history of its program. Replacing No. 3 won’t be easy, and the UVa quarterback in 2020 has big shoes to fill.

Perkins’ wasn’t on anyone’s radar in Virginia just a few short years ago, but he’ll remain in the memory of Virginia fans in the years to come.

Virginia needed an elite dual-threat quarterback to take the next step in the program’s maturation heading into 2018, and Perkins became an option.

“There’s two principles that I endorse and believe in,” Mendenhall said. “First is that culture precedes performance, and the second is who first and then what, so we worked the prior two years before Bryce came, we were working so hard on just establishing what a culture of excellence looks like and raising expectations and raising hopes and establishing belief, and it became really clear after those two years that we needed a dynamic player and person to lead our team offensively and from the quarterback position.”

Enter Perkins, and the rest is history.

“Bryce is the exact person we were hopeful to have lead our program, and I’m talking person first and then player second,” Mendenhall said. “It was and is the perfect fit. I couldn’t have hoped for anything else. I wouldn’t have wanted anything else or anybody else. I’m just grateful.”

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