Growing up in Philadelphia, Dante Perri started playing football when he was 5 years old, first as a center before making the change to quarterback.
Perri, now a junior, started six games for the Mountain Hawks last year and is now the starter, earning the first win of the season on Sept. 10 against Georgetown.
Perri is a captain for the team this season, serving as a leader for the underclassmen.
“I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to step up,” Perri said. “Being nominated captain was great, it was a good feeling of support from my teammates. I feel that all that platform made me do was what I wanted to do in a leadership role — push the guys around me because they are pushing me every day.”
Coach Tom Gilmore said he has a lot of trust in his team captain and quarterback for the season.
Gilmore said he’s especially seen a lot of growth from Perri in terms of his offense and having more confidence on the field.
“He gained some game experience last year and that’s proven to be very valuable,” Gilmore said. “He is doing a nice job so far. He was elected captain and it is always nice when one of your captains is your quarterback because the two roles go hand-in-hand.”
Eventually, when it was time to apply to colleges, Perri said Lehigh was the only school that gave him a chance to walk on and play.
“Having the opportunity to play Division 1 football was something that really enticed me to be able to take a chance on myself and see if it was able to pay off,” Perri said.
Junior running back Jack DiPietro is a roommate and close friend of Perri’s.
DiPietro, who was named the MVP of last year’s Rivalry game, said the pair have grown closer since Perri took over the starting role.
“It is an amazing thing to be able to have a running back and a quarterback be so close,” DiPietro said. “It helps with our decision-making — we both know where our heads are at all times. He is a great leader and he’s made a lot of strides.”
DiPietro said he and Perri are ready to prove themselves this season and build upon what they were able to do in the final three games last year.
“He knows that there is a lot of pressure on us after coming off of a pretty disappointing season last year,” DiPietro said. “You know there is going to be adversity and you know he is going be keeping us in check, not getting too stressed about the situation and just helping us as a unit moving forward.
Perri said his approach to being a leader on the field starts with being a leader off the field.
“I feel like the biggest thing is acting how you talk,” Perri said. “I don’t want to be the guy that is barking out orders and not backing up my actions. I want to lead by example. My plan is to really just keep doing what I have been doing and hopefully, some of the younger guys can find that inspiring and work off of that.”