John Perak, twice a Times All-Valley selection at tight end, plays basketball like a football player. In his sophomore year at Notre Dame High, for example, he fouled out of eight games.
College basketball players will be grateful to learn that Perak was recruited to play football by Stanford, USC, Arizona, Cal and Colorado. He signed a letter of intent with Colorado last week, and the other schools, he said, asked why he chose the Buffaloes over the more prestigious California schools.
"I had to think about what would happen if I got injured on the first day of practice," Perak said. "Where would I want to go to school?"
Perak based his decision on his belief that the aerospace engineering and biology programs at Colorado were as strong as similar programs at Stanford.
Colorado's coaching staff mirrors his admiration.
"John's a tremendously gifted athlete," Colorado assistant coach Jerry DiNardo said. "We were looking for someone like John who could come in and be a blocker and a receiver.
"Without question, John can contribute right away."
As a freshman at Notre Dame, Perak challenged himself to play three sports in each of his four years. With his fourth football and basketball seasons now completed, Perak's challenge will be over after the upcoming baseball season.
With a 3.4 grade-point average, Perak carries more on his shoulders than just shoulder pads, and he exudes a quiet confidence, not a brash cockiness that might be expected of a three-sport athlete. His ability to balance brain with brawn might prove to be his greatest attribute.
When some recruiters tried to influence him to sign with their schools by being less than honest, Perak saw through it, he said.
"I like Colorado because they were flat-out honest with me," Perak said. "Some schools told me half-truths. Some were clouding, some were hiding it.
"My parents told me that recruiters are salesmen and they're good at what they do. It was a matter of sorting out the facts from all the talk."
His parents played a major role in his decision, he said, but they didn't influence his choice. In fact, they refused to tell him which college they thought he should attend until after he had signed.
"They helped me in the sense that they did more research than I've ever seen anyone do, and left the decision up to me," Perak said.
Making more decisions on his own is exactly what he wants to do.
"I like the idea of moving three states away," he said. "It will teach me how to solve problems by myself. If I went to USC, I could run home to mommy, so to speak.
"I like being out there on my own. I'm going to have to do it sooner or later. I can't hide by my parents all my life."
As a sophomore, he found it hard to hide from the varsity football coaches. He was the only underclassman on the varsity, but as a reserve didn't see much playing time until the starting tight end was injured.
"The first game I started, I was terrified," Perak said. "I ran a decoy pattern. I wasn't supposed to be anywhere near the ball, but the quarterback scrambled and threw it to me in the end zone. I scored a touchdown."
Although his sophomore year wasn't easy for him, he learned a lot.
"It prepared me," Perak said. "Everyone was out to get me. They had fun knocking me over, and it was that way all year."
But at 6-6, 220, Perak has bumped some heads himself.
"I like hitting people and being physical," he said. "I'm not the kind who can stand around."
The physical nature of football fits Perak like a glove. Baseball and basketball hardly suit him.
"In baseball, you stand around the most," Perak said. "That's why I play first base, because you're almost assured of getting the ball thrown to you each inning."
On the court, he again stands around--under the basket. As the starting center, he averaged 17.8 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Although Perak led the Del Rey League in scoring, he dismissed his importance to the team.
"Anyone else could do the same thing if you give them the ball three feet away from the basket."