Favorite athlete: Allen Iverson
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: Winning little league districts when I was 12
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: I face planted while trying to catch a pop up as a freshman during spring training in Florida
Music on mobile device: All types of music but mainly classic rock and hip hop
Future plans: Studying sports management and playing football at Ithaca College
Words to live by: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
One goal before turning 30: Earn a masters degree
One thing people don’t know about me: I know how to solve a rubix cube
By Ed Morrone
Max Perry’s head football coach referred to him as a son. His basketball coach said Perry was a natural born leader of the caliber that Springfield Township High may never see again.
After the winding odyssey Perry has endured and survived, it’s no wonder he is one of the more respected student-athletes in recent school history.
Heading into Perry’s sophomore football season, things couldn’t have been shaping up any better. Perry had already played a decent amount of varsity snaps as a freshman on the defensive side of the ball, and he was primed to assume the starting quarterback job the following season. Things started out normal enough, with Perry under center for Springfield’s season-opening defeat against Octarara in 2016.
Then, everything changed in an instant.
Perry and his teammates were summoned back to school a couple of days later following a practice, where school administrators broke the devastating news that due to declining numbers, Springfield would be canceling its varsity football program, effective immediately. Perry remembers this day vividly. The school athletic director and principal were there, as was the superintendent. Just like that, a promising career at quarterback was derailed almost before it began.
“It was definitely one of the roughest things I’ve had to go through,” Perry said. “We were all a little shocked at the news. They didn’t sugarcoat it, and it hit us hard. We didn’t have a lot of kids, but the ones we did have all loved football and everything about our program. Nobody was expecting it.”
What happened next, or more accurately what didn’t happen next, changed everything.
Perry said he seriously considered transferring. La Salle, the powerhouse from the Philadelphia Catholic League, needed a quarterback, and Perry went as far as attending workouts with the team’s quarterback coach. He found himself being pulled in both directions, with some pushing him to stay at Springfield while others encouraged Perry to bolt for La Salle.
In the end, the allure of the tight-knit Springfield community and playing with the friends he’d known since kindergarten was too much to pass up, even if it meant having to play jayvee sophomore year and keep his fingers crossed that despite a murky, uncertain future, the varsity program would return.
“It was disappointing,” Perry admitted. “I didn’t want to play jayvee. I didn’t think it would get me any better or help the team. It was hard to see the future at that time, but I just followed coach Shelly’s lead. He’s so passionate about the program, and I knew he would work his butt off to get it back to where it was.”
The coach Perry referred to would be head coach Chris Shelly. Shelly himself played quarterback at Springfield in the 1980s, so perhaps he and Perry were always destined to see this process through, together.
Thankfully for everyone involved, varsity football returned to Springfield the following season. Perry and the Spartans played a completely independent schedule, and the team mostly struggled, posting a 3-6 record. It was to be expected after Perry and company missed an entire season of varsity competition and were forced to play catch-up. That being said, the team’s record was merely secondary: the players and coaches were just happy to have a program again.
“We didn’t win a lot of games, and I was still learning how to lead a team,” Perry recalled. “We had to find our identity, but I felt that it was something that we could build on.”
In Perry’s curtain call senior campaign this past fall, he and the Spartans announced their return with a vengeance. Again playing an independent schedule, the team finished with a winning record, going 6-4. Not only that, but Springfield qualified for the District 1 Class 4A playoffs; although they fell 28-13 to Pottstown, Perry and his fellow seniors got to leave the program in a good place, something that would have been impossible to say two years earlier.
“We brought the Springfield program back, and that means the world to me,” Perry said. “We showed people that we could do it. Coach Shelly, I’d go to war for that man. After our last game, I hugged him and I just broke down.
“I didn’t know what to say or do, it was the last game with him after the best four years of my life. As a team, I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. To have a winning season with only nine seniors and all the young guys we have, to bring that back coming off a down year is amazing.”
When talking about Perry, Shelly becomes so emotional that his voice begins to crack. The two share a deep love for Springfield football, and both stuck around when not a single person would have blamed either for leaving to find varsity opportunities elsewhere.
Perry and Shelly are, without question, tied for life.
“I can’t say enough about him, he’s the best I’ve ever had,” Shelly said. “He’s like my son. We went through a lot together, and I’m going to miss coaching him. He’s one of those kids I wish we could have for one more year. I joke with him that because we lost a year, we’re going to redshirt him and bring him back. What Max did was he built a culture, and future players will reap the benefits of that for years.
“Not only that, but he is just a special person. I have a daughter with a disability, and Max always takes time to talk to her. It chokes me up just thinking about it. He has empathy and looks out for the kids at school who aren’t popular. When my staff and I went to meet with the eighth graders who would be joining our program next year, Max came to talk to them. It goes beyond football and sports with him. Whatever it is, he has that.”
Chris Cole certainly would agree with Shelly’s sentiments. Cole is Springfield’s basketball coach and also has had the pleasure of coaching Perry on the hardwood. Unlike with the football team where Perry is the star quarterback, he was more of a role player for the Spartan basketball program. Perry came off the bench and relied more on effort and energy than he did skill or basketball athleticism, but he was still a key cog of the team, often being entrusted to guard the opposing team’s best player when Perry is on the court.
Cole said Perry’s presence was critical in more ways than one. Not only was he a glue guy, but Perry brings a quarterback’s style of leadership to a team that was short on experience and vocal leaders.
After playing basketball sophomore year, Perry took his junior campaign off to keep the focus on football, but he returned as a senior. The Spartans won just three games during Perry’s sabbatical; when he returned, they doubled that number.
“He is such a born leader that it is instilled in him,” Cole said. “The team needed an outspoken guy like Max, someone who knows how to win. Everyone listens to him, and he gives 110 percent and leaves everything he has on the floor at any moment.
“Having him on the team this year was huge. It was our most successful season in eight years, making districts for the first time since 2010. I’m really proud of Max. He had a hell of a senior year, and it’s been a pleasure to watch him develop into an educated young man. He takes sports seriously, but he also listens to people. He opens himself up to be there for others, and that’s the kind of kid we need more of in this world. I don’t know if I’ll ever have another kid who is as good as a leader as Max is.”
Perry is an overachiever, so it was no surprise to hear that he also suits up for Springfield’s baseball team, whose season is still in its infancy stages. Parry typically leads off and plays centerfield for the Spartans, and with it being the final varsity season of his high school career, he plans on enjoying every single second of it.
After that, Perry is off to Ithaca College, where he will play football for a very strong Division-III program. Parry also said he plans on majoring in Sports Management. It would come to the surprise of nobody if Parry ends up becoming Ithaca’s starting quarterback and succeeding in that role. Shelly said that Perry’s football IQ is off the charts, and anything the Spartans’ coach throws at him, even sophisticated schemes that elite college programs like Alabama and Oklahoma run, Perry absorbs. The coach compared his star player to former Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham, an outstanding athlete who is capable of wreaking absolute havoc, especially when he escapes the pocket.
“I think Randall was a little bit before my time,” Perry said with a laugh. “But I know he made a lot of plays and got creative outside of the pocket. I’ve never been a guy who liked to just sit in the pocket and surgically pick teams apart; I have a long way to go, but I think I’m a pretty good athlete who can use his feet to make and extend plays. I’m still working on my arm strength and accuracy, and I plan to take that to Ithaca with me. There’s a lot of running in my highlight film, but I can throw, too.”
Away from the football and baseball fields and the basketball court, Perry described himself as “your typical teenage kid,” which is funny coming from him when he’s been anything but typical in his time at Springfield. He loves video games, hanging out and playing sports with his friends, and within the last year he’s learned to play the guitar, which he said helps him keep his mind off the stresses of school and sports.
When asked to reflect upon the twists and turns of the last four years, Perry paused before gathering his thoughts. Even though he has much to look forward to at Ithaca, it’s evident how much the Springfield community means to him. It’s a place he holds close to his heart and always will.
“It’s definitely been a rollercoaster,” Perry said. “Over the years it was difficult, definitely not the easiest road. I didn’t go to a school with a huge program where we won every game, but I enjoyed every minute of it. The best part was doing it with kids I grew up with, kids I love who will be my friends for life. I had so many great moments in all the sports I play that it’s hard to pick a favorite moment, but that first varsity win junior year after not having a sophomore season was a real accomplishment that really meant something to me.
“I’ll never forget these friends I’ve made or the Springfield community. We all enjoyed and supported each other’s successes. I know coach Shelly is going to be my friend for life and I’ll always stay in touch with him. I really am going to miss it. As excited as I am for Ithaca, it’s going to be really hard to leave this place.
“I’m just so blessed and thankful to even have the chance to look back on it like this. I couldn’t be more thankful. It was a great time, and I enjoyed every second.”