Less than three month after ALC surgery, Rocky Hill senior Alex Peruta was able to suit up one last time with his teammates for the season finale against Cromwell/Portland on Nov. 23. Peruta was not cleared for contact football, but being in uniform was one step closer to playing again.
Rocky Hill High School senior Alex Peruta tackles challenges the same way he tackles opponents on the football field.
Peruta, who was an all-conference linebacker last fall, was set to take the next step before a knee injury ended his senior season in early September.
During a scrimmage against Avon, Peruta first felt his right knee buckle and then in the team’s season opener against Hartford Public his knee gave out early in the game.
It turned out that Peruta had a complete tear of his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in his right knee, stopping his senior season before it really got going.
Most seniors would be devastated by an injury that ended their high school career, yet Peruta approached the injury the same way he approaches life— with passion and positivity.
“My first thought was that we have to get the guys together,” recalled Peruta, who said his teammates gathered on the sidelines to pray with him following his injury. “With me being one of the leaders it took a toll on the team, but I wanted to make sure that everybody knew that this season could still be something great. It gave another great athlete a chance to shine.”
Head coach Rich Dance has been amazed by Peruta's upbeat attitude, before and after the injury.
“He is the most positive kid that I’ve coached in the 15 years doing this,” added Dance. “When he got the diagnosis, I felt terrible and my heart broke for him, but he never wavered. He stayed positive.”
It was Peruta’s third knee surgery, also having his left knee reconstructed twice. The second time he had his left knee repair was in March and he worked tirelessly to get back in time for training camp this fall.
“Part of him had to be disappointed, but the positive spin that he put on it was unbelievable,” Dance said of his latest injury. “It’s a credit to him and the type of kid that he is.”
The latest setback may have ended his high school career, but Peruta’s days on the gridiron are certainly not over.
Following surgery on Oct. 18, Peruta started the grueling rehab process and focused on helping the team in whatever ways he could.
He was hands-on during practice and would help with strategy before and after the game.
Being a senior captain, he continued to give pre-game speeches.
“I would preach to the team [not to let] this opportunity go to waste because it is not something that is given to every person,” said Peruta, ”Even though I wasn't on the field, I wanted to be there for my teammates.”
Peruta, who was born and raised in Rocky Hill, first started playing football a dozen years ago in the local youth leagues where he would develop into a feared linebacker in high school.
As a freshman, the team was entering a new era under Dance and the team finished 2-8. Then his sophomore season was lost because of the Covid-19 cancellation.
Peruta approached the uncertainty of his first two high school seasons the same way he approaches everything.
“When you’re down on yourself, you are digging your own grave. So I wanted to see if we stayed positive about things if we could flip things around,” recalled Peruta. “I try to keep that same philosophy about myself. If I just stay positive about things I will see opportunities instead of seeing roadblocks in my life.”
The arrow started to point upwards for Peruta his junior season when he led the team in tackles with 72 as helped captain the team to a 5-5 record.
During his time at RHHS Peruta played both sides of the ball for the Terriers, but he called himself “a linebacker at heart.”
This fall, Peruta was joined by fellow seniors Frankie Guerrera and M.J. Torres in the captain’s chair.
Despite the loss of Peruta and several other injuries to key players, the Terriers finished with a record of 7-3, just missing out on the Class SS playoffs.
In the season finale against Cromwell/Portland, Peruta asked Dance if he could be in uniform for the game.
“It was really cool to suit up. It felt like I was more involved with the game,” recalled Peruta, who was still not cleared to play but was able to suit up with his teammates one more time.
Peruta added that he gained a new perspective of the game of football while not being able to play.
“I never knew I had this much drive for football. You really never know you love something until it’s gone and I never knew I loved football this much until you don’t get to play in front of your friends and family,” said Peruta. “It definitely made me appreciate the game in a whole different way. It changed the way I looked at football because instead of just being a game it became an opportunity.”
Beyond the X’s and O’s, Peruta added that football is cathartic for him.
“It’s a way to express your feelings. A lot of people, especially men, try and bottle up those feelings, but football gives you the opportunity to express yourself and be the person you really want to be and express those emotions,” started Peruta.
Now that his senior season is over, Peruta has continued his diligent rehab and has started weighing his options for college football. He recently received his first offer to play collegiately.
Dance believes that he has all the tools that are needed for the next level, saying Peruta’s motor, dedication, toughness, and football IQ make him “the total package.”
“If we had 11 Alex Perutas on the field we would go undefeated,” added Dance, “In football and in life, he is destined for great things.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin