"He's an explosive, extremely instinctive inside linebacker. He plays with a lot of energy. As far as we're concerned, and obviously it's just one team's opinion, (but) as far as inside linebackers go, he has the best instincts in the draft, the best tackling, and he is the most explosive. When he hits people, they go backwards. We're really excited about getting him in here."
General Manager Tom Telesco uttered those words about Denzel Perryman three years ago shortly after the Chargers selected him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
If you ask most, they'd say Perryman has lived up to those words, establishing himself as one of the hardest-hitters in the NFL.
However, Perryman begs to defer.
In fact, the often-affable Perryman takes on a serious tone when asked about his career to date.
"I'm still trying to live up to it," he says matter-of-factly. "A lot of people may say I have lived up to that hype, but to me, I'm still trying to get there. I've just got to stay healthy and make sure I detail my work. Your craft is never as good as you think it is, so I'm working on small little stuff and the smaller details. Staying healthy and making sure I take care of everybody."
Perryman's game is all about setting the tone. A force against the run, Perryman strikes fear in the hearts of opposing running backs.
It's a role he relishes.
"I love it," he said emphatically. "It's part of my game and that's just what I do. I've always had that reputation, and I can tell when I'm on the field (they're afraid). I love being that guy who sets the tone. I kind of had to learn my way making the big hits in high school because I used to always go looking for them. But that's when you get out of your game and start missing tackles. So, I learned to let it come to me. When the opportunity comes, I take it. And I love it."
The opposition clearly feels the same way.
Just ask Eddie Lacy, who was the victim of a monster Perryman tackle in 2015 in the linebacker's first career start. Then there's Michael Crabtree, who Perryman laid out with a big hit on national TV that made him a top trending topic on social media.
Those tackles do more than demoralize the opposition; they also inspire the rest of the defense.
In fact, Perryman's teammates have given him a unique nickname showing how much his play inspires them.
"Some guys tell me, 'Come on Firetooth, let's make it happen,'" he says. "(It's part) of setting the tone. I'm that guy who sets that tone, so if I make a big hit, everybody gets hyped up. That means a lot to me. It shows how much of a family we really are, and how much they really care about one another on this team. That feeling (of being inspired) is how I feel if anyone makes a big hit before I do. That's going to get me going. We feed off each other on defense."
Perryman is itching to make those big hits on the regular in 2018. However, Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley believes he's primed to do more than just lay the lumber against the run.
"He's very explosive," Bradley said. "We're talking about playing a fast, physical, tight defense, and he brings that element of (physicality) to our team. He's a really good leader. He has stepped up in that quality, leading the defense. He plays base, he plays nickel and he just has a presence on the field. At any time, he has the ability to make big plays. That explosiveness — that speed on the field — gives you chances to get the ball out and create takeaways. He is one of those guys that has that."
Still, in order to live up to his potential, Perryman knows he must play a full 16 games for the first time in his career. The linebacker missed two games as a rookie, four in 2016 and nine a year ago due to a variety of ailments.
Thus, Perryman is looking to set the tone beyond the field as the linebacker is still only 25 years old with a lot of good football ahead of him. As he explains it, playing a full 16 game season will define the rest of his career.
"I haven't played a full 16 season yet, and I know Coach (Anthony) Lynn is waiting for it and some of my teammates are waiting for it," he said. "I'm definitely waiting for it. It's going to happen this season, and it's a big year for me. I feel like this year is going to determine my future. So I'm making sure I'm taking care of my body and doing the extra things I need to do outside of football. At home, I'm doing extra stretching, extra cold tubs and massages. This is a big year for me, so I can't wait to get started."