Jon Perlstein has assembled an impressive resume in his four years at Calabasas High:
Perfect (4.0) grade-point average.
Student body president.
All-Southern Section center in basketball.
All-league tight end in football.
Perlstein's skills as a VCR operator helped him highlight his skills on the football field. And now, the University of Nebraska is hoping the player it will soon take a look at in person--the 6-6, 210-pound Perlstein--is as good as advertised.
Perlstein, who turned 18 on Thursday, signed a letter of intent to attend Nebraska two weeks ago. He will go to the campus in Lincoln without a scholarship, but hopes to earn one during the football season.
"Going to the Orange Bowl as the starting tight end on a team that wins the national championship," he said. "Also, to be an All-American."
Perlstein had never even played in an organized football game before his junior year at Calabasas.
"My father never really wanted me to play football," Perlstein said, "because he didn't want me to get hurt."
From the time he was 10, Perlstein has been bothered by tendinitis in both knees. The thought of a defensive back bringing down his tall and lanky body with a helmet in the knee wasn't too appealing.
So Perlstein played basketball instead. As a sophomore, he was playing for the Coyotes' varsity team when he caught the eye of Larry Edwards, the football coach.
"He was so tall and he could rebound so well," Edwards said. "I thought he might make a decent wide receiver."
Perlstein went out for the football team as a junior and ended up starting at wide receiver. He was 6-5 and weighed all of 160 pounds.
"He was a little tentative at first," Edwards said, "but he improved throughout the season. He caught a touchdown pass at the end of the season and that really motivated him for his senior year."
Perlstein played tight end as a senior, catching 33 passes for 346 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also had four catches for two-point conversions.
His numbers on the basketball floor were even better. Perlstein averaged 18.8 points and 12 rebounds and helped the Coyotes advance to the 2-A Division quarterfinals.
His future appeared to be in basketball. But he decided on football.
"It was kind of a surprise to me," said Bill Bellatty, Calabasas basketball coach. "But, hey, he's 6-6. They can't make him taller, but they can make him bigger."
Nebraska would like Perlstein to add 25 pounds and become an even bigger target as a tight end in the run-run-run and run some more Big Eight.
"Just by the virtue of his size," Edwards said, "he had the potential to be recruited by anybody."
But until Perlstein became adept at hitting the play and record button simultaneously, nobody was recruiting him.
Because no school had offered him a scholarship in either sport, Perlstein was ready to attend UC Santa Barbara, where he planned on playing both sports.
In the meantime, Perlstein put together a videotape of himself in action last football season.
He sent the film to Stanford but didn't get a response.
A neighbor, an alumnus of Nebraska, ran into Perlstein's parents two months ago and offered to send a copy of the tape to Nebraska.
A few days later, Scott Downing, Nebraska's freshman coach, was on the phone telling Perlstein how impressed the coaching staff had been with the videotape of him.
Perlstein visited Nebraska two weekends ago and needed little persuasion to become a Cornhusker.
"When I went up there," Perlstein said, "they had their spring game, red against white. There were 30,000 fans in the stadium. I got to see the school, meet Coach (Tom) Osborne. Everything was first-class.
"I signed right away when I was up there. I knew it was the place for me."
His place, at the beginning, will be on the freshman team. That squad plays on Fridays, the day before the real Big Red team rumbles with the likes of Oklahoma and Missouri.
"The varsity coaches film the practice games," Perlstein said, "and take a look at everybody. What they've said to me is that if I work hard and put on the strength needed, then I can move up to the varsity very easily."
Perlstein is confident he can make the jump in weight and class.
"To play in the Big Eight," Edwards said, "he has to be a heck of a lot bigger to take the abuse from catching the ball over the middle."
Edwards said Perlstein has the physical tools to be a good tight end.
"He has soft hands, which in receivers' vernacular, means he can catch the ball well," Edwards said.
Perlstein is working diligently to put on weight. He lifts weights four days a week. Two days a week are dedicated to running and improving his speed.
"It has always been a dream and goal of mine to make it in college sports," he said. "When I was a sophomore playing varsity basketball, I was looking toward making it in major college basketball.
"But when I started to play football, it really came naturally, running after I caught the ball and gaining a lot of yards."
The idea that he might be catching passes for one of the nation's best football programs is, Perlstein said, "mind-boggling."
"It's all happened so fast," he said. "Sometimes I sit down and think, 'Am I really going to Nebraska?' "