Through the magnitude of the NFL, it can be difficult to remember that the players on the field come from all different walks of life and may personally share in the same trials and tribulations as their fans.
Rookie linebacker Joshua Perry has a story relative to many of those fans.
Joshua's younger brother Jahred was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome on the autism spectrum at age nine and the diagnosis forever changed the Perry family. Joshua called growing up with his brother "fun" yet "atypical" due to the challenges the disorder presented.
"It was an adjustment for (my family) just trying to find the right therapy for Jahred and trying to make sure he could be successful in what he was doing," Perry said. "Then (trying to) find a way to balance his needs with everybody else's needs because it requires a lot of attention and my parents knew that. They were able to find ways to give my older brother and me attention, so we didn't feel left out. It's all about having a support system, a community and knowing that it gets easier as time goes on."
As time passed, Joshua and his family have seen Jahred evolve and blossom into a social, independent young man who now drives and can cook meals on his own.
"You've seen him mature as a person. He's a very social person. We call him 'The Mayor' because he knows everybody. I guess with his disability, he's willing and able to step into those (social) situations. (Before), there would always be something that would trigger him and he would have tantrums, but now, he's really good about being able to press pause and go through scenarios in his head. We're proud of him for that and his independence."
Throughout their lives, both brothers have been able to teach and learn things from one another. While Joshua has helped Jahred become more social, he too has been shaped from the difficulties his "role model" has faced.
"Jahred's taught me a ton; how to face challenges, always keeping your head up and never taking no for an answer. People have told him 'No, you can't do that,' or 'No, you won't be able to do that.' And he's said, 'I'm going to do what I need to do.' That's something that I take from him."
Though he spent time at Ohio State, Jahred has transferred to a community college closer to home. While he enjoyed going to tailgates and socializing with fans at OSU before his brother's games, Jahred has never seen Joshua play a down of football in person due to being uncomfortable in large crowd settings. This doesn't faze Joshua as all he wants is for his brother to be content.
However, now that Joshua is in the NFL, Jahred is more proud of his older brother than ever before.
"Jahred's funny because now he tells people, 'My brother is in the NFL! He's in California!' He has a job so it's funny because he tells me he's going to save up money to (visit). My older brother lives out in Long Beach so it's really awesome because (Jahred) looks up to both of us and wants to be around us. (Being in the NFL) is one of those things that I take pride in it but I know a lot of other people take pride in me being here too."
While being a football player means a lot to Joshua for what he can do on the field, it has double meaning for what he can accomplish off of it. Known for his strong character and leadership in college earning honors as an all-state AFCA All-Good Works Team member and a finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, Perry is eager to continue his advocacy for autism and raise awareness now that he has a larger platform as a Charger in the NFL.
"I have a voice; people will listen to me. I've been blessed in a situation where I have a platform that people will listen to and take action because of. Also (for) the fact that I've been blessed in a lot of ways that Jahred hasn't been blessed and kind of vice versa. I need to take my blessings and pass those onto him and other people who are in his situation in any way I can. I feel like it's almost a duty just to do that because of the scenario I'm in. I've grown up most of my life in Columbus since 2003 and so being able to come out here and interact with a different city and pay it forward here is going to be awesome."