When Florida Atlantic quarterback N’Kosi Perry transferred in from the University of Miami, expectations were high. Perry had plenty of playing time with the Hurricanes from 2017 to 2020, but never quite hit the numbers some were expecting of a four-star recruit.
After earning his degree from Miami in Criminology, Perry committed to FAU as a grad student in the spring of 2021. He was not able to join the team until fall camp. It was there in Willie Taggart’s offense that he began to look like his old self, finishing the year with his best numbers of his college career. This included 2,771 passing yards on 210 completions, a 60.7% completion percentage and 20 touchdowns with seven interceptions. The Owls would finish the season 5-7.
As a new campaign began for FAU on Saturday, expectations were once again high. In turn, Perry showed a complete performance, finishing 16-of-22 passing for 256 passing yards with one passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown. The Owls would defeat Charlotte 43-13 on Saturday night in front of a raucous home crowd — specifically the student section.
He’s had big games before, but this one was different: Perry was focused, collected, zen even.
“What you saw is someone who was under control ... He was really calm and under control today,” Taggart said about Perry postgame.
Even as his new-look offensive line let some pressure through sporadically in the first half, Perry hung in the pocket with poise and delivered several near-perfect throws to lead his team to points on five of their first seven drives.
It doesn’t take much more than a Google search to tell you that maturity and mental clarity have not always been Perry’s strong suits. That being said, observers of the FAU football program have noticed a massive change in Perry over the last year. His head coach has been amongst the most vocal of his supporters.
“We really didn’t know what we were getting from him other than what we saw on film from when he played at Miami and what you hear from people when you talk to them when we tried to recruit him,” Taggart said, seated next to Perry at C-USA Media Day. “From a football standpoint, we knew he could play. He had all the tools to do that part. But as a quarterback, it’s much more than just the tools you have. You’re the face of the football team. There’s a part of you that your teammates can’t have. Just to see him grow and understand that role as a quarterback and embrace that role this offseason has been tremendous.”
Perry himself remembered entering the FAU program and making the conscious decision to lead by example.
“I’m a lot more comfortable with the team,” Perry stated. “I wasn’t here for the main part of the offseason last year, so when I came in for training camp, it was the very beginning for me. I didn’t want to step on guys’ toes. I didn’t want guys to feel like I’m just telling them what to do without them actually seeing me put the work in myself...I feel like I can be a great leader now and take that role, and it’s great for us.”
Maybe, Perry really benefitted from a full spring to build chemistry with his teammates. Maybe the frustrations of last season made him change his habits. Maybe, he’s just settling in to fatherhood, knowing what success in this sport can mean both for him and his young family.
Whatever the reason, Perry and his team used week zero to set the tone for what will surely be an important year for FAU football.
“Seeing the growth of N’Kosi this offseason and the work he put in, it’s night and day from the time he got here,” Taggart said at C-USA Media Day. “When he’s like that, everybody else is going to follow him, and they’ve been following him. I see him in the office every day and he’s always got another player with him to come up and watch film. That’s totally different from what we’ve seen around here, but it has made our football team better.”
FAU continues their season on Saturday on the road against Ohio University.