When Kent Perkins was in the process of making his college selection there was one thing that was important to him above all else.
Texas' All-American tackle comes to Austin having not allowed a sack in three varsity seasons at Lake Highlands.
He wasn't looking for the school with the best facilities. He didn't give a much credence to the school that offered the easiest path to NFL stardom, early playing time, or even a BCS title.
He wanted a program that would provide two things. Keep him close to his mother and grandmother in Dallas and be a home away from home.
The 6-foot-6, 305-pound four-star offensive tackle found that at Texas. Next week, the 6th-ranked prospect in the state and the nation's No. 49 overall prospect in the final Top247 will sign as one of the Longhorns' best takes in a historic recruiting haul of offensive linemen for Mack Brown.
“All colleges have great strength programs and things like that,” Perkins said. “You've got to find what's different. For me, the family atmosphere at Texas was different than everywhere else.”
Family is important to Perkins. His mother and grandmother raised him and molded him into the person he is today.
Those close to him say he gets his values and personality traits from his mother, Tonia Bables. Both are soft-spoken yet strong willed. Both have faith and strong core values that determine how they live their lives on a daily basis.
Some parents in today's culture are so focused on molding their children into elite athletes they can lose sight of other key aspects in the development of the child. Tonia Bables and Perkins' grandmother, Joycie Luster, spent their time raising a young boy and making him a man while letting the football coaches that entered his life take care of his development on the gridiron.
“It's amazing,” Perkins said of having his mother and grandmother as the rocks of his life. “They love me and the support they've shown me has been amazing.”
Lake Highlands head coach Scott Smith often likes to tell the story of the first time he laid eyes on Perkins as a 6-foot-4-inch, 280-pound eighth grader running up and down the basketball court in a junior high game. Smith and his staff have been instrumental in developing Perkins as a football player, yet he's continually impressed with the person the Parade All-American and USA Today All-USA selection has become.
“He's the most humble, unassuming young man you'll ever meet,” Smith said. “Kent has every reason in the world to be cocky, but you'd never know how good he is when you talk with him.”
Perkins does have a reason to brag. There's a reason he's rated as high as he is and a reason why Longhorn fans should be elated when he puts pen to paper on Wednesday.
He's got the type of length that will keep him at tackle at Texas. He shows exceptional foot quickness and a punch that helped him not allow a sack in three varsity seasons and might make him the best pass blocking prep tackle in America.
His improvement as a run blocker stems back to his decision to take up wrestling last winter. The understanding of leverage and the aggressiveness needed to win one-on-one battles on the mat made him more aggressive and intense at the point of attack on the field, adding to what he already brought to the table.
He put it all together in practices leading up to and during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl last month, he showed that he could go toe-to-toe with the best defensive line prospects the nation had to offer.
“I had so much fun,” Perkins said. “I learned how to push myself when it started getting hard. The speed of the game and going against guys as good as I am was fun.”
Perkins had interest and offers from schools across the country as one of the nation's top offensive tackle prospects. Despite Alabama, LSU and the countless other schools that wanted him in the fold, his recruitment came down to a battle between Oklahoma and Texas.
The distance from his home in Dallas is the biggest reason why his recruitment boiled down to a Red River battle.
“That was real important,” Perkins said. “I didn't want to leave Texas and I wanted to be somewhere I could come home if I needed to get home in a hurry.”
His Feb. 25 junior day visit to Texas last winter solidified any doubts he had about the Longhorn program.
“It was the talk I had with Mack Brown,” Perkins said. “He made me feel like it was a big family.”
Now Perkins, along with Harker Heights 247Composite five-star guard Darius James, Celina center and midterm enrollee Jake Raulerson and Irving High four-star guard Rami Hammad represent the bright future in the trenches with the Longhorns.
Perkins would like to redshirt in 2013 if he can but he trusts Stacy Searles will make the right call on what's best for his future.
“It all starts with the offensive line,” Perkins said. “We're eye to eye, and that's what it takes for you to be successful with your coach.”
As his mother and grandmother prepare to pass the baton to Searels and the rest of the Texas staff to handle his development personally and professionally during his college years, they can sleep easy knowing the young man they're sending to Austin picked the destination for all of the right reasons.
“That family bond is there,” Perkins said. “You've always got somebody there to watch your back.”