If you stop by Stephenville High School and pay close attention to the varsity offensive line during two-a-days, odds are you won’t be able to pick out which of the five starters did not start last year.
That’s because Nic Perez, who is taking over Dylan Frazier’s spot at guard, has all the physical and mental characteristics of a returning starter.
Perez was on the varsity last year, and saw his fair share of action for the district champion yellow Jackets. More importantly, he has kept himself mentally sharp, being sure to know the responsibilities of his position on any play.
Now a full-fledge member of the starting five along with tackles Austin Melvin and Kody Travis, guard Ben Dammers and center D.J. Vanden Berge, Perez fits right in, and the Jacket offense doesn’t appear to be missing a beat.
“I’ve kept up with the plays and everything and studied them, and all of us have,” Perez said. “That has helped a lot because we haven’t really had to relearn anything.”
Perez said there is already solid leadership along the line that has helped ease his transition to the starting lineup.
“It’s a great feeling stepping in there with those guys,” he said. “There is already this sense of leadership and command from the guy next to you. Every play, you know he’s going to do his job.”
In addition to the mental preparation, Perez is also ready physically. He looks every bit the six-foot, three-inches and 255 pounds he is listed as on the roster, and was one of the area’s best power lifters last spring. He says the Jacket linemen - and the team as a whole - take great pride in carrying the weight room onto the field.
“The weight room is a huge deal. It’s always been a big part of the program here,” Perez said. “We try to carry the time we spend in the weight room out to the trenches.”
Perez has successfully lifted well north of 600 pounds in the squat exercise. Put that next to Vanden Berge’s 600-plus-pound squat and Dammer’s strength at the other guard spot, and Stephenville packs plenty of punch in the middle.
The Jacket linemen also pride themselves on being athletic, Perez says.
“The athletic ability we have is pretty awesome,” he said. “All of us try to be the top athletes at our positions.”
While other players are quick to talk about lofty goals like winning a state title this fall, Perez knows if the Jackets can just be at their best, championships and other honors will take care of themselves.
“I just want us to be the best we can be,” he said. “I want to do my job the best I can and to keep working hard so we can be our best.”
And at it’s best, Perez - and many others - feels the offensive line can be one of Stephenville’s best in recent years.
“Right now we’re just working hard every day to keep getting better,” he said. “But I believe it can be (one of the best). That’s the goal is to be the best at everything.”