William Perry (American football)
|No. 72, 90, 95|
|Position:||Defensive tackle, fullback|
December 16, 1962|
Aiken, South Carolina
|Height:||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight:||350 lb (159 kg)|
|High school:||Aiken (SC)|
|NFL Draft:||1985 / Round: 1 / Pick: 22|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
William Anthony Perry (born December 16, 1962) is a former American professional football player who was a defensive lineman in the National Football League (NFL) for ten seasons during the 1980s and 1990s. Perry played college football for Clemson University, and was recognized as an All-American. He was selected in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft, and played professionally for the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. In reference to his imposing size, he was popularly known as "The Refrigerator" or, abbreviated, "The Fridge." Perry also occasionally played at fullback at the goal line due to his size and power.
Perry was born in Aiken, South Carolina. He has stated in an interview that "Even when I was little, I was big"; by the time he was 11 years old, he weighed 200 pounds. Frequently ridiculed for his weight while growing up, Perry took advantage of his athleticism to silence his critics. He attended Aiken High School and played as a 295-pound nose guard on the school's football team and ran on its track team. During an exercise in which his coach instructed all of his fastest players to line up for a 100-yard dash, Perry joined the group of running backs, wide receivers and defensive backs and eventually was timed as the 6th fastest runner on the entire team, with a time of 11.00 seconds flat. He was also able to run the 100 meters under 12 seconds, and competed in the shot put event, recording a top-throw of 16.44 m (53 ft 11 in). He could also execute 360-degree dunks on regulation basketball hoops and perform complicated dives into the swimming pool.
Perry's athletic performances earned him a full-ride scholarship to attend Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina, where he played for coach Danny Ford's Clemson Tigers football team from 1981 to 1984. He was a member of a national championship team in 1981, and was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American as a junior in 1983. As a freshman in 1981, he earned his "refrigerator" nickname when a fellow player could barely squeeze into an elevator with Perry and their laundry which they were taking to be washed. The player, Ray Brown, said "Man, you're about as big as a refrigerator."
In 1985, he was selected in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears; he had been hand-picked by coach Mike Ditka. However, defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who had a highly acrimonious relationship with Ditka, called Perry a "wasted draft-pick". Perry soon became a pawn in the political power struggle between Ditka and Ryan.
Perry's "Refrigerator" nickname followed him into the NFL and he quickly became a favorite of the Chicago Bears fans. Teammates called him "Biscuit," as in "one biscuit shy of 350 pounds."
While Ryan refused to play Perry, Ditka decided to use Perry as a fullback when the team was near the opponents' goal line or in fourth and short situations, either as a ball carrier or a lead blocker for star running back Walter Payton. Ditka stated the inspiration for using Perry as a fullback came to him during five-yard sprint exercises. During his rookie season, Perry rushed for two touchdowns and caught a pass for one. Perry even had the opportunity to run the ball during Super Bowl XX, as a nod to his popularity and contributions to the team's success. The first time he got the ball, he was tackled for a one-yard loss while attempting to throw his first NFL pass on a halfback option play. The second time he got the ball, he scored a touchdown (running over Patriots linebacker Larry McGrew in the process). About halfway through his rookie season, Ryan finally began to play Perry, who soon proved that he was a capable defensive lineman.
Perry went on to play for ten years in the NFL, retiring after the 1994 season. In his ten years as a pro, he regularly struggled with his weight, which hampered his performance at times. He played in 138 games, recording 29.5 sacks and five fumble recoveries, which he returned for a total of 71 yards. In his offensive career he ran five yards for two touchdowns, and had one reception for another touchdown. Perry later attempted a comeback, playing an unremarkable 1996 season with the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football (later NFL Europa).
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In 2006, he began marketing his own branded barbecue sauce. Also in 2006, he turned down an offer to become Director of Football Operations for the Continental Indoor Football League's Chicago Slaughter.
During his popular tenure with the Bears, Perry participated in the recording of two rap records, both in 1985, in addition to the team's very popular "Super Bowl Shuffle". Walter Payton and Perry recorded an anti-drug, pro-peace rap tune entitled "Together" which was written by four Evanston, Illinois teens. It was re-released in 1999 with part of the profits going to the Walter Payton Foundation.
Perry participated in a World Wrestling Federation battle royal at WrestleMania 2 in Rosemont, Illinois in 1986, wrestling Jim Neidhart, known professionally as "The Anvil". In 2006, he returned to the Chicago area to be inducted into the "Celebrity Wing" of the WWE Hall of Fame by John Cena. In 2000, he was defeated by Bob Sapp in a toughman boxing competition on FX. In 2002, he lost in the third round to 7 ft 7 in (2.3 m) former NBA basketball player Manute Bol in a charity boxing match on the Fox Network's Celebrity Boxing program.
In 2003, he appeared in Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest as a "celebrity contestant." He stopped eating 5 minutes into the competition. This was parodied in an episode of TV Funhouse from the November 11, 2006 episode of Saturday Night Live in which Takeru Kobayashi plays a hot dog eating superhero. After Kobayashi saves the day by eating a lot of hot dogs, a cartoon William Perry makes an appearance saying "Damn!" in Japanese. He participated in the 2006 Lingerie Bowl as the super sub.
He made a guest appearance in the 1980s television show The A-Team. In the 21st episode of the 4th season (The Trouble with Harry) "Fridge" signs into the same hospital The A-Team is using to help their friend Harry recover. Throughout the episode, Perry only has a few lines — including the funny: "They'll never catch him", referring to his NFL playing days — but he gives out "Bears" caps in the final scene. B. A. Baracus and Hulk Hogan (who guest starred in the episode as well) react angrily when they do not get a cap, but the large sized Perry is able to calm them down with his huge smile. In 2003, he appeared in a TV movie on Comedy Central called Windy City Heat, opposite an aspiring actor named Perry Caravello, who is led to believe he is acting in a major motion picture. He also made a short appearance in the opening of According to Jim (Season 8, Episode 15).
He starred in a commercial in the 1980s with Jim McMahon, fellow Chicago Bears teammate, for Coke Classic and Coke. He appears on the Chef Tony infomercial endorsing My Rotisserie in a number of acted scenes where he plays poker with his friends, while singing the praises of the kitchen appliance. During Super Bowl XLIV, Perry joined other members of the 1985 Chicago Bears in resurrecting the Super Bowl Shuffle in a Boost Mobile commercial.
In 2002, Perry competed on the 2nd edition of Celebrity Boxing losing to NBA star Manute Bol by unanimous decision. He also made an appearance on an episode of the Comedy Central series, The Man Show.
Popular rap trio The Fat Boys recorded a twelve-inch single titled "Chillin' with the Refrigerator" released on Sutra Records. A novelty hit, "Frig-O-Rator," was released in December 1985 on the Motown label by Roq-In' Zoo and featured sound bites of Bears game plays. The following year The Fridge was yet again remembered in a rap song, this time by the obscure Los Angeles-based hip-hop group Hard Machine who released the single "Refrigerator."
Perry is one of several real people to be immortalized with a 3.75 in (9.5 cm) G.I. Joe action figure of himself as The Fridge. The figure was offered in 1986, the same year the Bears defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
In 2013, Perry was named as both original (as fullback) and unlockable (as defensive tackle) All-Player Legend on Madden 25, the only player to be named twice, and his career as a running back was only until 1990.
In June 2008, he was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome, a chronic inflammation disorder of the peripheral nerves. On April 22, 2009, Perry was hospitalized in South Carolina in serious condition from his Guillain–Barré syndrome. Perry spent approximately a month in the hospital before being released. In June 2010, it was reported that Perry suffered from hearing loss, but also that he was improving after his diagnosis of Guillain–Barré syndrome. He had lost more than one hundred pounds (50 kg), but was, by this time, back up to 330 lb (150 kg). In February 2011, ESPN ran a somber article about him, citing ongoing health and drinking problems, and a weight of 400 lb (180 kg). In January 2016, Perry, weighing more than 425 pounds, checked himself into the hospital to receive treatment for diabetes. Confined to a wheelchair, Perry revealed he had no feeling in his feet and was in danger of having his leg amputated.
In April 2011, Cliff Forrest, a 10-year-old child, discovered Perry's Super Bowl ring for sale. With help from his mother, he purchased it for $8,500 and returned the ring to Perry. In September 2015, it was reported that Perry's Super Bowl ring was auctioned off for more than $200,000 by the man Perry had sold it to several years earlier.
As of October 29, 2014, Perry has been confined to his late father's home. Michael Dean Perry, his younger brother and another former NFL defensive lineman, is William's guardian and conservator for his affairs.
July 30, 2015, Perry's Super Bowl ring, the largest Super Bowl ring ever made, was auctioned off to an unknown bidder. As of September 23, 2015, Perry is living off a monthly social security disability check, and also gets some disability money from the NFL as he lives in an assisted living townhouse.
Perry was hospitalized in Chicago with a leg infection following his return to Soldier Field on January 3, 2016.
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- The Associated Press (14 August 2018). "Jim Neidhart, Wrestler Known as the Anvil, Is Dead at 63". The New York Times Obituaries. Retrieved 2018-08-19.
- "Top Ten Characters: William Perry". National Football League. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
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