Justin Perillo spent Saturday afternoon with the TV tuned to the National Football League draft.
Several family members gathered at the Perillos’ home in Wilmington, Delaware, to see whether the former University of Maine tight end would be drafted.
“I was nervous, anxious, real excited to see what happens, but then as the draft went on, I didn’t get any calls and I started to get more nervous than anxious,” Perillo said.
They watched as UMaine cornerback Kendall James was drafted in the sixth round, No. 184 overall, by the Minnesota Vikings.
A little later, the Perillos finally had something to celebrate. He received a few offers and followed the advice of his agent and agreed to a free-agent contract with the Green Bay Packers.
“He told me what would be the best fit for me, we talked about it, we both agreed on it,” said Perillo, who is scheduled to fly to Green Bay on Sunday.
Another former Black Bear, defensive end Mike Cole, received an invitation to mini-camp from the Washington Redskins.
James, of Roselle, N.J., became the first Black Bear to be drafted since Jerron McMillian was taken by Green Bay with the 133rd overall pick in the fourth round in 2012. McMillian was UMaine’s highest ever draft pick.
James, an Associated Press FCS All-America second-team pick and a first team All-Colonial Athletic Association honoree, led a UMaine secondary which allowed a league-low 165.4 passing yards per game in 2013. James totaled 36 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, to go along with two interceptions, nine pass breakups and blocked a field goal attempt.
James registered 147 career tackles with eight interceptions and 25 pass breakups in 48 games.
James and Perillo bring to 52 the number of Black Bears to join an NFL team. James is the 15th to be selected in the NFL Draft.
Perillo, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end, earned All-CAA first-team recognition for the second time last fall. He caught 39 passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns last season to help coach Jack Cosgrove’s team win the CAA title and earn its first-ever home Football Championship Subdivision playoff game.
Perillo finished his career with 128 receptions for 1,318 yards and 15 touchdowns in 44 games with the Black Bears.
He said he isn’t taking anything for granted as he strives to take the next step in his career.
“I’ve still got to make the team,” Perillo said. “I have to keep working hard each and every day, just like I have been doing for my whole career, especially what I did at Maine.”
Perillo said he owes a special debt of gratitude to Cosgrove.
“I didn’t know, until coach Cos sat me down and told me, that I had a chance to play in the NFL,” Perillo said. “He said I just had to keep working hard, change a few things. I listened to him and the man was right.”
Cole (6-2, 250), a two-time All-CAA second-team pick, is UMaine’s career sacks leader with 29. Last fall, he made 27 tackles (8 sacks) with an interception and a forced fumble.
In 39 career games, Cole recorded 135 tackles, 39.5 for loss, to go with five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 10 pass breakups and one INT.