Five months ago Texas was his choice. Then LSU entered the picture. By the time he played in last Saturday's U.S. Army High School All-American Bowl, senior quarterback Ryan Perrilloux of East St. John High in Reserve, La., had added Miami, Florida State and Mississippi State to the mix with signing day less than three weeks away. "I'll make my commitment soon," said Perrilloux, with a wink and a grin on Thursday. "Until then, to anyone who wants to make an offer, I'm listening."
That's what the U.S. Army Bowl, in its fifth year, has come down to: less an opportunity for schoolboys to showcase their skills and more a vehicle for the players' budding celebrity. For five days before the game, which was held in the Alamodome and televised by NBC, the 83 high school all-stars toured San Antonio and were often besieged by autograph hunters. Then, in a stunt that first occurred when quarterback Chris Leak announced his decision to attend Florida during halftime of the 2003 game, players who wished to broadcast their choice of schools were given a platform to do so during Saturday's game.
On a table set up on the sideline, at various times 17 athletes reached into a black equipment bag and pulled out a cap bearing the logo of the lucky school he had chosen. It can't be described as a sideshow when it generates more cheers from the 30,350 fans than the plays in the game, which Perrilloux and the West won 35--3. "For the players, [announcing their decisions here] has become the cool thing to do," says Garrett Shea, the game's director of football operations.
No prospect is more coveted than Perrilloux. A four-year starter at East St. John, where he passed for 3,546 yards and ran for 1,460 this season, the 6'3", 215-pound quarterback has a combination of arm strength and agility that brings to mind Michael Vick. Perrilloux had seemingly made his decision in August when he verbally committed to Texas. But last month he met with Les Miles, the new coach at LSU--where he might play a lot sooner than at Texas, which has junior quarterback Vince Young returning. Now Perrilloux says that his interest in the Longhorns and the Tigers won't prevent him from making official visits to Mississippi State, Florida State and Miami this month. "Basically," says East St. John coach Larry Dauterive, "he's got the world by the butt."
In the U.S. Army Bowl, Perrilloux only enhanced his profile. After eluding two defenders and throwing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Slick Shelly of Fort Smith, Ark., in the first quarter, Perrilloux was on the receiving end of a fourth-quarter flea-flicker, catching a 45-yard pass from wideout DeSean Jackson of Long Beach ( Calif.) Poly (chart).
However, to the fans' disappointment, Perrilloux didn't pull a cap out of the bag. After the game he said he won't choose a school until national signing day, on Feb. 2. "This really isn't my scene," he said. "When I announce, I want it to be more low-key. Like SportsCenter, maybe."