Montrell Perry is a student-athlete, broadcaster, producer and promoter, among other things, but he is a father above all. Coming from Raleigh, dealing with injuries, going through mental and physical roadblocks, having a baby at 21, and still being an employed student-athlete, there have been many challenges in Perry’s way, but he is determined to use that pressure to make diamonds.
Perry grew up in Raleigh and attended Millbrook High School. Basketball caught his attention first and for the first two years of high school, he thought basketball would take him where he wanted to go. That was until a coach asked him to come out and run track and basketball suddenly got put on the back-burner. It would be track — something he never focused on — that would take him to heights that basketball never did. Perry worked and worked and at one point, he was the No. 1 400-meter runner in the state. He would eventually make nationals coming in third before he made a college commitment.
Perry had the athletic ability, but he struggled to focus in the classroom. He committed to the University of Mount Olive, but coming in he was redshirted due to academic reasons. It was during this time where he faced one of the biggest mental hurdles of his life.
“I came here to run track and even though I knew the reasoning, it was tough working out and training, but not being able to run with my teammates,” Perry said. “I didn’t feel alive if that makes sense. It was like track made me so happy and I finally got to this place that so many people get to and then I can’t do what makes me happy. I’m thankful for it though. It made me want to go harder, honestly, because I never wanted to be off the track again.”
When Perry was able to get on the track, as a sophomore, he made it count. Perry was a part of the 4x400 team that won first place in the conference. His first year running as an athlete at UMO, he won the conference. For Perry, it seemed like college was turning out to be exactly what he had envisioned. Reaching the pinnacle as a young sophomore, Perry felt that whatever came his way, he could handle it. But something he had never dealt with forced him to adjust once more and he realized, as an athlete, he had to be prepared for anything.
Perry never dealt with injuries in high school and it wasn’t until junior year of college when he faced multiple injuries in succession. First, he dealt with a heel injury, then came problems with his hamstring.
“It felt like my freshman year all over again, but this time it was even tougher,” he said. “I had to do alternate workouts and I had to go to the trainer every day. I felt so alone in a lot of that time because my teammates were reaching all of these milestones and in a way, I was rushing to get better. I had to be okay with not being able to do anything, but this is when I learned patience and I matured a lot. I thought I was taking care of my body but I realized I wasn’t.”
Perry is preparing for his senior season as a student-athlete at UMO, but this go-around, he has more than just himself to worry about. Perry and his girlfriend had a daughter right before school started back. So while being a student-athlete with multiple jobs, Perry has adjusted his mind once more to make himself better off and on the track.
“I’m going to be honest, I received some backlash when I first had my baby girl but my mother has always been a strong support system for me. Since I’ve had my daughter, I’m like reading every day, praying, and trying to network because now, it’s not just for me anymore,” Perry said. “Everything I do is for her. I’ve been through so much in just the last three years, but all of that has made [me] stronger and each challenge has taught me a different lesson. I’m better than I was when I first got here and I’m ready for this season.
“I feel like with everything on my shoulder, I can either fold or stand tall and I plan on doing the latter,” he said. “I’m in a way better space now and I’m more determined. I feel the best I’ve ever felt since I’ve been here.”
Indoor track season is coming up in the winter and Perry is looking to once again finish on top of the conference, this time in either the 400-meter or 200-meter.