“I had no idea (this would happen)," Perine said of becoming the school's all-time leading rusher after the Sugar Bowl. "I came in with an open mind and things fell into place, and here we are.”
And where we are is 4,122 yards and atop one of the most prestigious lists in all of college football. Ahead of such names as Peterson, Murray, Griffin, Washington, Owens, Pruitt and of course, Sims, Oklahoma’s career-rushing leader Samaje Perine has given fans and the university plenty to be proud of through his three brilliant years wearing the crimson and cream. Besides the two memorable and mammoth rushing records that will likely stand for many years to come — 427 yards in a single game in 2014 to go along with the school record achieved on Monday night — the humble man-child with an old soul will also be remembered for much more through his years at OU.
Samaje was one of the most clutch Sooners we’ve ever seen throughout his career and despite splitting carries with another stellar back in Joe Mixon for two seasons, saved some of his biggest moments for the biggest games. Amassing 685 carries in 36 games at OU, he also suffered but played through his share of injuries, displaying his immense heart and character amidst incredible toughness in the process. He came back after appearing to suffer a broken ankle in last year’s national-semifinal loss to Clemson, as well as returning from a helmet-to-helmet hit in Bedlam last month to pace the Sooners to a hard-fought win.
Second straight #Bedlam game in Norman that Perine has left the game with an injury in the second half.— Cliff Brunt (@CliffBruntAP) December 3, 2016
Ouch, that hit would’ve knocked most of us to the moon for weeks. But no sweat for the indomitable Optimus Perine. Oh, there was also this to end the game:
You’re welcome, little brother.
Samaje Perine, despite the opinion that he’s “just a guy” to one “draft expert”, currently ranks as the No. 6 running back in Todd McShay’s NFL Draft big board and looks to be a mid-round steal for any team that drafts him. That lucky franchise will undoubtedly get a bruising back with underrated upside and a high-character teammate who leads by example and effort. He will surely be missed in Norman next season but entering the draft was the right move to make for Samaje, and caps in storybook fashion one of the most decorated careers of any running back in college football history.
As a tribute to the humble record setter, here’s a look back through a few of Samaje Perine’s biggest games.
OU @ West Virginia - September 20, 2014
Hello, America. The Mountaineers had no answer for the Ground and Pounder from Pflugerville on this night, as the freshman Perine broke out for 242 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries in the road win in Morgantown.
OU @ Texas Tech - November 15, 2014
Without an injured Trevor Knight, a jittery OU offense had to turn to backup Cody Thomas, who along with the Josh-Heupel-coordinated Sooner offense sputtered mightily before Optimus Perine came to the rescue, going for 213 yards, three touchdowns and snatching the Sooners a win in Lubbock.
OU vs. Kansas - November 22, 2014
The following week on a rainy Homecoming day in Norman, a record was set.
OU vs. Texas Tech - October 24, 2015
In a shootout with the Red Raiders at home, it was Samaje who once again proved to be the key to the win as he led the Sooners with 201 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
OU @ Baylor - November 14, 2015
Entering Waco as underdogs to Baylor, Perine’s 166 yards and two touchdowns were instrumental in the Sooners exacting revenge on the Bears for the season before...and for just being Baylor, too.
OU vs. TCU - November 21, 2015
The week after in Norman, as Baker Mayfield was forced to leave the game before half with a head injury sustained from TCU linebacker Ty Summers’ dirty hit, Samaje came up with 188 big yards and a score to preserve a too-close-for-comfort, one-point win, over the Horned Frogs.
Bedlam - November 28, 2015
Samaje then pummeled the Pokes for 131 yards and two touchdowns in the Sooners rout in Stillwater, propelling OU into the 2015 College Football Playoff.
Red River Showdown - October 8, 2016
Back and forth Oklahoma and Texas went on this sunny afternoon in Dallas, as the Sooners ultimately rode Samaje’s 35 carries, 214 yards and two touchdowns to the thrilling 45-40 win.
Bedlam - December 3, 2016
The Pokes ran on the Sooners, knocked Dede Westbrook out of the game and made it a tense Bedlam this season in Norman. But the calm, steady Samaje Perine led OU again with 239 beastly yards and a touchdown to seal up a second-straight win against OSU. Game highlights:
Sugar Bowl - January 2, 2017
Last but certainly not least, Samaje totaled 86 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, including the record breaker, in the sweet bowl win against Auburn — earning a well-deserved “Boomer!” from Billy.
“It really hasn't hit me yet, don't know exactly when it will. I'm just happy we get the win in the fashion we did, ready to celebrate with my team.”
Those were the soft-spoken words of Samaje after the Sugar Bowl, the reaction of a true class act deserving of every accolade for every accomplishment on and off the football field. A heartfelt thanks to you, Samaje Perine, for all the wonderful memories you gave Sooner Nation the past three seasons. Boomer Sooner, and much respect.