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'Back at 100%': Esko's Mason Perich signs with Minnesota-State Mankato

The 2022 Esko graduate battled back from a hip injury suffered during last year's state track meet.

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Esko’s Mason Perich and teammates celebrate after Perich intercepted the ball against New London-Spicer Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, during the Class 3A state tournament quarterfinals in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / File / Brainerd Dispatch
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ESKO — After months of rehabbing in the wake of a hip injury sustained during last year’s state track meet, 2022 Esko grad Mason Perich is poised to make his long-awaited return to the gridiron next fall as a member of the Division II Minnesota-State Mankato Mavericks.

The three-sport star announced his commitment on social media earlier this month after being extended an offer during a workout session. After the long recovery process, Perich said it’s an exciting feeling to have a new home.

“It’s exciting to take the next step. It feels good,” Perich said. “... I just tried to recover as fast as I could and take all the necessary steps to be back at 100%, which I feel like I am.”

Esko head football coach Scott Arntson shared in the excitement in seeing another former Esko alum receive an opportunity to play collegiately.

“Coming off of his senior year, I was hoping he would find something in football or track and so it took a little while, but I’m happy for him,” Arntson said. “I’m glad he found a home. And we have some other alumni that are there, so I think that’s going to be a good spot for him.”

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The 6-foot 2-inch speedster will play wide receiver for the Mavericks after making an impact on both sides of the ball during his high school career.

Arnston said Perich’s athleticism was always something that stood out.

“I always thought Mason was one of those kind of sneaky good athletes. He really never seemed to get hit. He didn’t look like he was going too fast, but he was always going pretty fast,” he said. “Obviously he’s got good speed … Also his football IQ was really high, so that helps.”

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Mason Perich (30) of Esko carries the ball on the way to scoring a touchdown against Rock Ridge on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Esko.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

Perich did all of his rehabbing at home through the physical therapy center at Esko High School over the course of months.

During that time, he said the support of his family provided a huge boost, along with some sibling rivalry with his brother and former teammate, Koi.

“My whole family supported me — my dad, Koi (and) mom,” Perich said. “It helps having siblings that can push you because you never want to get beat by them."

The journey had its challenges, but Perich said he tried to maintain his drive as best as he could.

“Just trying to stay motivated was probably the main thing, just not feeling sorry for yourself. You just gotta get out there and work,” Perich said.

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Perich will join a Mavericks team that is coming off of a 10-3 season in 2022 competing in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference under head coach Todd Hoffner.

Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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