Mountain View QB thrives after rough childhood, times without a home

Glen Perry Jr.: “I’m thankful I came here. I’ve felt at home here at Mountain View”

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer

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It’s game week for the Mountain View High School football team — No. 10 on the season — meaning the Thunder are in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Like he has all season, quarterback Glen Perry Jr. sits at his usual lunch spot inside head coach Adam Mathieson’s office, a quaint space filled with Mountain View mottos and memorabilia, hats of NCAA Division I teams and a Tennessee Titans helmet that represents the first high school quarterback Mathieson coached who made it to the NFL: Ferndale’s Jake Locker.

Here, Perry and Mathieson talk football and watch film in preparation for the week’s opponent. In this case, it’s Lake Washington High School of Kirkland. These 30 minutes every day represent a sliver of what Perry, 18, describes as a good day, because in a childhood with difficult trials and uncertain times — bouts of homelessness, a father in federal prison, and struggles in school — he had a fair number of bad days.

“I try really hard to have every day be a good day,” Perry said. “There’s some things, sometimes, that happen backward. I feel good about going to school, coming to class, doing my work, going to practice.

“All of that stuff makes me feel good.”

Football, though, continues to be Perry’s stabilizer in a life that’s been off-center.

The senior is the front-runner to earn the 3A Greater St. Helens League’s Offensive Most Valuable Player honor after a breakout season quarterbacking the Thunder for the first time. He’s completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,185 yards and 18 touchdowns, and rushed for 995 yards and nine touchdowns.

And all because of a friendly wager that gave him a chance to compete for the starting job at quarterback, Perry also is on a better path for success beyond football. He’ll graduate high school after entering Mountain View following his freshman year with a 1.4 grade-point average, and has concrete plans to be the first in his family to have a college degree.

“I want to change that for my family,” he said.

Compared to where he’s been, this football stuff is easy.

Love

Watching his son compete, strive to win, be a leader — first as an all-league running back, now as a dual-threat quarterback — Glen Perry Sr. is proud of the kid he describes as “my world.”

This is the same kid he handed a football to at age 4 and saw a spark, the same kid he watched score three touchdowns two years later when he coached his son’s youth football game.

Then, time stood still.

Perry Sr. has attended every Mountain View football game since his release from federal prison in January 2016. In 2007, he was sentenced to 140 months after being convicted on drug charges and conspiracy for purposes of sale. He was released after serving nine years for good behavior.

Their relationship, father and son admit, is good, and it continues to be a work in progress. While they can’t make up for lost time, they now share a home. One of the biggest disappointments Perry Sr. said about his incarceration was not knowing if his son would have a father figure growing up.

“I felt like that was a missed opportunity,” Perry Sr. said, “like I screwed his whole life up.”

In those same nine years that the elder Perry was away, his son bounced between nine schools living with his mother, Faith, and later with mom, stepfather and half-brother, or extended family. Financial hardships caused stretches of homelessness as recently as middle school. He’s never been without a place to sleep, even if it was couches at extended family members’ homes.

Homelessness was off and on, the son added: “Sometimes we were, sometimes we weren’t.”

Mountain View is Perry’s ninth school. When he arrived for fall camp in August 2015, he was a self-described punk. A fallout with his uncle led to his moving in with his aunt, who lives blocks from Mountain View.

When it’s your second high school after attending two middle schools and five elementary schools, trying to prove yourself as the new kid time and time again becomes the norm.

“I always had to hide behind something,” Perry said. “Always felt like I was cool.”

Perry didn’t think it was cool, though, to sit out the first five weeks of his junior-varsity football season as a sophomore because of academic ineligibility after transferring from David Douglas High in Portland. His GPA was 1.4, and he contemplated whether he wanted to continue playing the sport he lived for.

But if he didn’t, who knows where he’d be. He can’t bear to think about it, because he sees what it’s done to friends who remained across the Columbia River.

“Nothing but bad,” he said. “I have numerous friends in prison.”

Prepare

Clocks show 7 a.m. in mid-January as Perry prepares for another early-morning workout.

Bed is made. Kilo, his miniature pit-bull terrier, is fed. This, too, is all part of Perry’s good day he described earlier.

“I feel good about being accomplished,” he said.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association rules prevent offseason coaching, so players are in charge of events, such as these winter throwing sessions between receivers and potential quarterbacks inside Mountain View’s gymnasium.

Perry is one of the potential quarterbacks, and others, such as receiver Tyrell Hall, notice his leadership.

The two would later shared a dorm room at Boise State’s football camp, but here, Hall saw the work Perry put in, and at the same time, chemistry grew.

“I felt like his role got stronger as the weeks went on,” Hall said.

As a junior in 2016, Perry was an all-league running back his first time at the position. Up until that point, Perry played only quarterback his entire life, but he adapted to the position out of team necessity.

Perry had every reason to prepare for the chance to return to being under center, which is why he’s up 1 hour, 40 minutes before school once a week in the school’s gymnasium.

In Mathieson’s tenure at Mountain View, he’s never had a multi-year starting quarterback. The door opened to have the 10th quarterback in 10 years when 3A GSHL Offensive MVP Andre Scheer, Mountain View’s quarterback in 2016, was graduating.

This was Perry’s golden opportunity, but his climb was steeper than most. Like Mathieson has done many times, the coach didn’t give up on him and told him this: Achieve a minimum 3.0 GPA for the spring semester, including an A in weight training, and a quarterback tryout would be granted.

Perry agreed.

Weeks later, teachers emailed Mathieson praising Perry’s academic progress, and by semester’s end, the semester GPA was 3.2.

Mathieson is a father of three whose background as an educator includes a master’s degree in education specializing in guidance and counseling. He is also the school’s athletic director. He coached college football at Western Washington University after his playing career in Bellingham ended, but the reason he gravitated toward the high school game is because of the investment in young people’s lives.

Perry’s circumstance is no different.

“That’s the powerful motivator in sports,” Mathieson said, “and the powerful motivator of having a goal and a dream.”

Breaking down for the first time during an hourlong interview, the teenager was grateful beyond words for what Mountain View and Mathieson mean to him.

“He’s helped me a lot with simple human traits that are good to have,” an emotional Perry said of his coach. “He’s showed me the doors to open and believed in me, which is really what I was missing.”

Compete

Ask Steve Amrine about Mountain View’s quarterback, and plenty of praise comes from Kelso’s fourth-year head football coach.

“You can see his competitiveness,” Amrine said. “He’s a tough player to defend. He is a true double-threat guy who can beat you with his feet and arm.”

In the past two seasons, Kelso’s only league losses are to the Thunder, and Perry’s had memorable plays in each game: game-opening and game-ending. At Kelso last year, Perry took the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, and on the final play of last month’s 29-23 overtime win at McKenzie Stadium, Perry’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Makai Anderson won it for the Thunder.

That’s why it’s no surprise to his teammates that the Thunder are where they are: winning consecutive 3A GSHL titles having gone 10-0 in league the past two seasons. Lineman and fellow senior Nick Jones said the no-quit effort of Perry, his friend and teammate since the day he arrived sophomore year, inspires him.

“This is more than a game to him,” Jones said.

Small-college football likely is in Perry’s future, Mathieson said. George Fox, an NCAA Division III member that recently reinstated its football program, is the latest school to show interest.

On the wall of Mathieson’s office hangs a framed “pyramid of success” the coach developed early in his coaching career. It reads: Love, Prepare, Compete.

Perry sees it daily while eating lunch and reviewing film, and is reminded of what makes Mountain View so special to him. It’s unlike any other place he’s been, he said, and the reason he’s on the path to better things post-graduation.

“That’s a lot of what makes Mountain View different from a lot of schools,” he said. “I’m glad I came here. I’ve felt at home here at Mountain View.”