William Perry has done just about everything one can do playing football.
The Aiken native was a nearly unstoppable prep star for Aiken High School. The 300-pound defensive lineman went on to Clemson, where he was the X-factor in the Tigers' lone national championship in 1981.
After college, where Perry was named a three-time All-American and nicknamed, “The Refrigerator,” he was a first-round draft choice of the Chicago Bears. All he did in 1985 was lead the Bears to their lone Super Bowl title, score a touchdown in the big game and gain worldwide fame. He went on to play 10 years in the NFL before ending his playing days, definitely leaving an impact on the gridiron.
For all of those achievements, Perry has received numerous awards and recognition. The most recent honor came last week, when The Fridge was inducted into the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame.
“You can't top that. It's wonderful,” Perry said Monday, when describing the induction ceremony that was held last week at the Cliffs Valley in Travelers Rest. “To be put into the Hall of Fame, it was great times being there.”
Perry was part of the second class of players inducted into the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame. He was joined in the honor along with Sterling Sharpe as well as the late Deacon Jones and Freddie Solomon.
“It was great to be selected with those guys. I played at the same time as some of them and they were great too,” said Perry, who was the biggest star at the induction ceremony without Sharpe in attendance. Although Perry never had the chance to meet Jones, the football legend who coined the term quarterback sack, he felt a kinship with his fellow defensive lineman. “I saw him play, and he was a great player. No doubt about it. I'm proud to (go into the Hall of Fame) with him.”
Perry also said he's proud of his football roots. He said he's been happy to see the success Clemson has enjoyed in recent seasons. While enthusiastic, he wants to maintain his distance and not get in the way of what head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff are doing to make the Tigers a national power.
“I follow them and take toll when they're playing. I see how everything is going, but I don't tell them what to do or how to coach. I just stay back and watch,” said Perry, who gets enough adulation when he's reminded of his own achievements at reunions and run ins with former teammates, including members of the '85 Bears. “I appreciated playing with all of those guys. It was great times and fun.”
They certainly made it look fun. With a cast of larger-than-life characters on the Bears, none was any bigger then The Fridge. Whether it was stuffing the run as a critical piece of what's considered by many to be the greatest defense ever, or serving as lead blocker for the legendary Walter Payton, or scoring a touchdown on a run of his own in the Super Bowl, or singing in the iconic “Super Bowl Shuffle,” Perry took the world by storm.
He's one of the fortunate and gifted few that can compare winning a national championship in college to the thrill of winning a Super Bowl. And in spite of that elite status, he remains down to earth.
He still lives in Aiken, his boyhood hometown. He even speaks highly of the Aiken High football program, saying, “It's always competitive with any team from any town. They compete very well.”
Perry has remained a presence in the local high school football scene. Prior to last year's Border Bowl, an exhibition between all-star players from Georgia and South Carolina, Perry sent players a letter of encouragement. He said he's always going to stay active in urging the youngsters in Aiken and beyond to do everything they can to have as much success as possible; in athletics, academics and life.
“I encourage kids to do better, study hard, play and do their best,” said Perry, who knows about being the best. With all of his achievements, being inducted into the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame matches any of them. “To go into the Hall of Fame, you can't say no more. It's tops. I appreciate the honor.”
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.
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