It’s no big secret that the Denver Broncos offense has struggled massively over the last few years. Whether it’s fumbling on the goal line or losing players to injuries, Denver’s dealt with it all.

That’s why adding running back Samaje Perine this offseason was such a slam-dunk signing. Not only has he not missed any time due to injuries since 2018, but he also has yet to fumble a ball since his rookie season in 2017.

Perine’s football career has been filled with the highest of highs (like breaking records), but also the lowest of lows (like getting cut three times in less than seven months). Now in 2023, he’s positioned himself as one of the most-needed players on the Broncos roster.

Becoming a Household Name

Perine was born in Jackson, AL, in 1995. His family later moved to Pflugerville, TX, where he attended Hendrickson High School.

While at Hendrickson, Perine emerged as an athlete. On top of being a track and field star, Perine was also a three-year starter for the school’s football team as a running back. In his senior year, he rushed for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns.

As Perine prepared to leave behind high school, Rivals, 247Sports, and ESPN labeled him a four-star recruit. Despite receiving enticing offers from Alabama, Nebraska, TCU, and Tennessee, Perine ultimately decided to attend the University of Oklahoma.

In an interview with ESPN, Perine explained, “Alabama is a great school, but they just have so many backs right now, and they’re going to have a lot of great backs when I graduate.” He added, “There wasn’t a need for me there.”

While at OU, Perine quickly became a household name amongst college football fans.

As a freshman, he saw immediate playing time on the field. In his first collegiate game, he helped lead the Sooners to a victory by rushing for 77 yards on 13 carries and scoring a touchdown. Later that season, Perine rushed for 427 yards and scored six touchdowns in a victory over Kansas, breaking the NCAA single-game rushing record that former Denver Bronco Melvin Gordon had set the previous week while at Wisconsin. His exceptional debut season earned him the title of Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, and he was also named a Second-team All-American and First-team All-Big 12.

Over three seasons, Perine amassed over 4,122 rushing yards and scored 49 touchdowns, earning his status as one of the most prolific running backs in college football history.

On January 2, 2017, he broke OU’s all-time rushing record previously set by Billy Sims. Though the Sooners qualified for the College Football Playoffs, Clemson defeated them in the semi-finals.
Perine decided to forgo his senior season and declared for the 2017 NFL Draft.

From College Superstar to NFL Hopeful

Before the chaos of the NFL Draft could commence, Perine had one last trick up his sleeve. With the help of magician Daniel Fernandez, he proposed to his high school sweetheart, Megan Haney.

Perine was drafted as the 114th overall pick by the Washington Redskins in the fourth round. He signed a four-year, $3.05 million contract with the team.

The running back situation in Washington was precisely the one he had tried to avoid when he chose to attend OU. Perine became part of a backfield committee alongside Chris Thompson, Robert Kelly, and Mack Brown. Though he saw no action in Week 1, Perine debuted in Week 2 with 21 carries and 67 yards. Perine fell in and out of the starting role throughout the season as injuries plagued the position. He finished his rookie season with 603 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, 22 receptions for 182 yards, and a receiving touchdown.

Unfortunately, Adrian Peterson’s arrival in 2018 meant Perine saw very little time on the field in his second season. He only appeared in five games and had eight carries for 32 yards. Perine was waived before the 2019 regular season on August 31.

Perine spent 2019 on the Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins practice squads, though both waived him.
While it was starting to look like Perine’s NFL career would be cut short, 2020 proved to be the breakout year he had been waiting for.

As a Bengal, he appeared in all 16 games, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. This earned himself a two-year deal with the team. Behind Joe Mixon, Perine cemented himself as one of the most reliable backups in the league in 2021. His 41-yard receiving touchdown in the AFC Championship helped kick off the Bengals’ come-from-behind win against the Kansas City Chiefs that led to a Super Bowl berth.

In 2022, Perine became an even more important part of the team. Again appearing in all 16 games, he also filled in as the starter for two when Mixon was dealing with a concussion.

Perine finished the season with 394 rushing yards, his highest since his rookie year. On top of that, he also added a career-best 287 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns.
On March 16, 2023, the Denver Broncos signed Perine to a two-year contract. Because of Javonte Williams’ multi-ligament knee injury in 2022, the Broncos knew they needed a durable playmaker who could help carry the load.

Perine the Denver Bronco

In his Denver debut against the Las Vegas Raiders, Perine had eight carries for 41 yards, averaging 5.1 YPC. In a surprise, he finished the day with the highest amount of receiving yards of any Broncos player.

While there were many things to be disappointed in from that game, Perine was one of the shiniest bright spots. If the Broncos want to be efficient on offense, it’s clear that Perine will have to be heavily involved. With tight end Greg Dulcich now out for some time due to injury, Perine’s ability as an efficient pass catcher will be more critical than ever.