Field of work suits Locomotives’ Perry

Early in his athletic life, Tab Perry faced a big decision.

He dreamed of being a professional football player but was also good at soccer.

At age 14, Perry was invited to participate in U.S. Soccer’s Olympic Development Program, which identifies superior skilled players and prepares them to possibly compete for the national team.

Perry chose football and ultimately got to live his dream, playing in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2005. But leg injuries derailed his career, and the 6-foot-3-inch wide receiver from UCLA has played the last two seasons for the Locomotives of the United Football League.

“I’m very happy. I enjoy the UFL, and I really like Las Vegas. I’ve gotten to see the town beyond the Strip, and it’s the kind of place I can see myself living year-round,” said Perry, who has eight receptions for 99 yards in three games for Las Vegas (2-1), which plays Friday at Sacramento (1-2).

Perry said with his speed and size, he probably could have been successful in soccer.

“I don’t regret my decision at all,” the 28-year-old said. “I had been playing soccer since I was 3, but I never wondered what it would have been like to be a pro soccer player. To be honest, I never really considered it.”

Same for baseball. He was a talented outfielder and pitcher and was invited to play baseball while at UCLA. But when he moved up the football depth chart and became the Bruins’ No. 1 wideout as a senior in 2004, Perry retired his glove and bat.

But not his arm. Perry threw a flanker option pass to DeDe Dorsey, who rambled 61 yards to the 3, setting up a field goal last week in the Locos’ 22-10 home win over Omaha.

While Perry has no designs on quarterback Tim Rattay’s starting job, he swelled with pride when talking about his pass completion.

“Those kinds of plays, you get one shot at it,” Perry said. “The coach puts his trust in you to do things right, and it’s a real joy to see it work.”

Las Vegas coach Jim Fassel didn’t always trust Perry. In fact, he nearly cut him early last season when he thought Perry wasn’t playing at an acceptable level.

“We had a heart-to-heart talk,” Fassel said. “I told him he was better than he was showing us and I was going to give him one more chance, and if he didn’t pick it up, he was gone.”

Perry got the message. He finished the season with 11 receptions for 195 yards and a touchdown and figures to exceed those numbers in his second season with the Locos.

“I had to swallow my pride and remind myself it was about the team,” Perry said. “It makes me feel good to know Coach Fassel trusted me. He spoke to me like a man, and he never stopped believing in me.”

■ NOTES — Cornerback Isaiah Trufant was named the UFL’s Defensive Player of the Week after his two interceptions against Omaha. … Tight end Adam Bergen was held out of Tuesday’s drills after spraining his right knee against Omaha. Bergen is expected to play Friday. … Las Vegas replaced defensive lineman Alfred Malone, out for the season with a right knee injury, on its roster with defensivee back Kevin Hobbs. Hobbs played for the Miami Dolphins and also spent time with Seattle and Detroit.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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