By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Although he is “kind of bummed” to miss tonight’s graduation, Palisades High senior Quinn Perry knows better than to pass up a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity.
On Tuesday, he left for Edmonton, Canada to play for the United States’ U20 national rugby team in next week’s World Trophy Qualifier. Perry is the youngest member of the college-level squad and is quite used to that by now.
“When I was about 7 I was playing Pop Warner football for the Santa Monica Vikings and the head coach (James Gibb) was from England and also happened to coach for the Santa Monica Rugby Club,” Perry recalls. “He told me I had good size and athleticism for my age and I should try rugby. My mom didn’t want me to play because she saw how scary it looked, but I joined the U10 team and that’s how it all started. I’ve won three state titles with them.”
Perry began at fly half, the main decision maker and distributor, similar to the quarterback position in American football. He played on the Los Angeles All-Stars and from there was selected to a state team. Perry helped lead the SoCal Griffins to the Regional All-Star Tournament (RAST) title and the national team coaches there invited him to their winter camps. As a sophomore he was the youngest player to make the U17 High School All-American squad and in March he went to France for the European Rugby Tournament. The USA placed eighth and is narrowing the gap on Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Perry, who also played football for Palisades, is part of two Dolphins teams as his rugby club mascot is also the “Dolphins.”
Pali High life experience coach Joe Spector is most impressed with Perry’s leadership: “The younger kids look up to him because he doesn’t act like he’s better than anyone else.”
Comparing the two sports, Perry enjoys the physicality of both but acknowledges they are very different: “I love that in rugby the action is nonstop, so fitness is a huge part of it. Rugby taught me how to tackle differently because in rugby the tackles have to be below the waist. I love the hard hitting in football and sharing such a passionate game with my teammates. What I’ll remember the most is beating Venice.”
Perry excelled on the gridiron in the fall, earning All-City first team defense and special teams honors after leading the Dolphins with 123 tackles (62 solo, 61 assisted), including eight sacks and 24.5 tackles for losses. He added five pass deflections, five fumble recoveries and one interception. He punted 29 times for 1,131 yards, averaging 39 yards per kick. One of the Dolphins’ most versatile players, Perry also caught 12 passes at tight end for 242 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 20.2 yards per reception.
Perry will be playing outside linebacker at El Camino College next fall, where he’ll be joined by Pali High teammate Jimmy Reyes. Luckily, the rugby season starts just when football is ending.
“I went to Paul Revere [Middle School] and could’ve played wide receiver at Venice High because I was working out with the offensive specialist there but I chose Pali for the academics and I’m glad I did.”
Perry, who turned 18 last Monday, has lived his whole life in Marina del Rey. The 6-2, 225-pounder was a multi-sport athlete growing up, playing baseball and basketball at Barrington Recreation Center.
“My dad wants me to play football but so far rugby has taken me more places,” Perry says. “My dream is to play in the World Cup and the Olympics someday. I’ve had college coaches tell me I’m No. 1 at my position. If Pali ever starts a rugby program, I want to come back to coach.”