Patrick Perry III is back home.
The former Sidney Lanier football star has returned to Robert E. Lee for his senior season. Today he leads the basketball team against Central-Hayneville in the opening round of the Dwight Madison Tournament at the Carver High gym.
Perry, scarred by death and despair in his family life, channels his pain into motivation on the court.
“People can’t imagine what I’m going through with my family,” Perry said. “Only I know what I’m going through. That right there motivates me. I work extremely hard. Nobody’s going to take care of my family like I’m going to. So when I’m in the weight room, or on the court, or on the football field, I’m just dedicated to what I’m doing.”
Many of Perry’s emotional wounds are still fresh. On Nov. 25, his cousin, Antwonette Rainer, was seriously wounded in a drive-by shooting and transported to a local hospital. When Rainer’s mother (Perry’s aunt), Eureka Jackson, heard the news, she rushed to the hospital. Jackson, who had recently had heart surgery, never made it to her daughter.
“When her mom got to the room, she felt weak,” Perry said. “So when she got to the room to see her daughter, she had a heart attack and died.”
Perry said Rainer has recovered and is out of the hospital. He said he keeps a lock of his aunt’s hair in his gym bag.
“That makes me work harder,” Perry said. “I’m my family’s last hope. So that’s what motivates me, my family.”
But Jackson’s death is not the only devastation Perry has had to deal with. On June 6, Perry’s brother, Atrivius, was shot and killed.
“He was very down when his brother passed away,” Sidney Lanier coach Angelo Wheeler said. “I had to spend a lot of time with him just to keep his head right. He’s had his moments about it because he was very close to his brother. With his aunt, it hit him again. But he’s the type of kid that through all of this adversity, he still keeps a smile on his face. He’s a very strong young man.”
Perry played football for Wheeler during his junior year at Lanier after spending 9th and 10th grade at Lee. Perry had to transfer back to Lee because he could not drive his younger sister, Kelly Artis, to school and make it to class on time.
Lee coach Bryan Johnson said he is glad to have Perry back with the Rebels.
“Even though he went to Lanier, there was still a place in his heart for Lee,” Johnson said. “He knows that he has family here at Lee, not only the team, but people at the school as well.”
Perry hopes to add to his family’s athletic legacy at Lee. His father was a member of Lee’s 1992 state championship football team. After being away for a year, Perry said Lee still feels like home.
“I feel more comfortable at Lee,” Perry said. “Lee’s where all my family graduated from. My teammates are behind me 100 percent. I say they’re like my brothers. I lost a brother, so on the basketball court, I’ve got like 13 more brothers. They make me happy. I love them for that.
And my coach, when the situation was going on, he checked on me every day to see how my family was doing. I love Coach Johnson like a dad. I feel at home when I’m at Lee. I’m just counting my blessings and trying to get my team to the state championship.”