By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE — Noah Perez doesn’t need to see over or around the giants he surrounds himself with these days, because he already knows the way.
It’s why he chose to stay in Stephenville, and why he followed the footsteps of his brother, Nick Perez, into the Tarleton State football program.
It’s a good thing he knows the way, too, because he’s got too much going on to get lost.
Especially between the huddle and the snap of the football, when he’s basically leading the way for the four men beside him, a director of giants, you could say.
And giants they are – the tackles are Shawn Best (6-8, 340) and Cody Hayes (6-5, 300) and the guards are Jovan Pruitt (6-6, 360) and Deon Sheppard (6-4, 295).
At 6-2, 270, Perez is by no means a small man, but he appears so by comparison. Still, if you can find the right angle from the bleachers to see around the trees he has beside him, you will see a hometown boy – a 2012 Yellow Jacket state champion and 2015 SHS graduate – out there at the center of everything, touching the ball to start every play for a college offense beginning its sixth straight year with a Perez on the line.
The Texans leave Friday for their season opener at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi that begins at 2 p.m. Saturday. But before he gets away, Perez stopped after practice Tuesday for a Q&A with The Flash Today:
Q) I know you’ve had to battle with Justin Reasons all spring and now throughout preseason camp this fall to earn the starting spot at center. How has this competition helped you to improve, and now that it’s game week, how does it feel to be breaking the huddle and lining up with the first team offense?
A) I’m excited. It takes a lot of hard work trying to compete with a guy like that. It really made me hone in on my skills and practice my snapping, so it’s made me a better center. We had a great competition.
Q) Reasons played all five positions up front at one point or another last season. What is it that he still brings to the team that makes him special?
A) He’s great, just a great asset. A guy who can play anywhere is super special, just invaluable to have ready at any moment.
Q) What has it been like playing here at Tarleton after growing up here in Stephenville and playing for Stephenville High School?
A) It’s a great experience. I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s great to have that hometown support and hometown feeling. My family loves Tarleton and my parents are big Tarleton supporters. It’s great being right here where they can come to every game, and also having people around you who know you, like really know you and your family.
Q) An injury kept you out the last four games last year after you started the first seven. How hungry are you now to get back out there and get this season started?
A) I’m ready, I’ve been ready. It hurt last year watching everybody play, I was just trying to encourage the guys and be excited about my team, but it hurt not being able to help them.
Q) You guys seem to have so many new faces, especially with all the transfers, that I have to wonder, what do you feel will be most different about this offense?
A) We’re going to run the ball more, for sure, and it’s going to be fun. We have a lot of new guys – a lot of new players and a lot of talent. It’s going to be fun.
Q) Zero.That’s how many guys who started on the offensive line the last four games of last season are back and are expected to start to begin this season. Has it been tough getting this many new faces to gel?
A) No, we gelled pretty naturally. We all get along and hang out, and it seems like it’s coming together on the field and off. It’s just part of the process.
Q) There has been an open quarterback competition going on with Derek Kiser, Zed Woerner, and then, of course, in comes Ben Holmes and I know everyone is still waiting to see what happens with his situation. As a center what has that been like, working with so many different guys back there?
A) They all handled it really well, you just have to be able to adjust quickly when they change out. Whoever comes in there, you have to know their cadence and how they roll. But I’ve been able to adjust quickly and I think they’ve had a good competition back there that is going to benefit all of us and make the whole team better.
Q) I noticed you’re a busy guy when you break out of the huddle, making calls, getting ready over the ball, all that. What is all going on for you, pre-snap?
A) I have to check the defense, make calls, know the play, know and know the cadence. The rest of the O-line really adjusts off me, so I have to identify things quickly and then be ready to get the snap off or we don’t have a play.
Q) Run block or pass block, which do you prefer?
A) I like them both, all part of the game. I just love to play football.