MMQB: Former Navy QB Malcolm Perry Explains What the Fourth of July Means to Him

The Dolphins receiver writes a guest column about growing up on a military base, serving his country and having a platform thanks to the NFL.
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With Albert Breer on vacation, we have guest writers filling in for his Monday Morning Quarterback column. This column comes from Malcolm Perry, former Navy quarterback and now second-year Dolphins wide receiver. Read last week’s column, written by Sam Rapoport, the NFL’s senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

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Born the youngest of six children, to two soldiers in the U.S. Army, it wasn’t hard to find the motivation to serve. That motivation recently manifested itself into what I would consider to be the greatest accomplishment of my life to date. Graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in May 2020 marked the start of a career of service to this country’s great military. It was my dream, while at the academy, to become a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps upon graduation. That dream was set to come true before things took a turn late in my senior year. Early in my senior year at the academy, President Trump made a slight change to the rules allowing service academy graduates to delay their commission and pursue a professional sports career, reverting back to the rule that allowed Keenan Reynolds to join the Ravens in 2016. I had no idea at the time that I would be the first at the academy to benefit from this rule’s changing back. The Dolphins selected me with the 246th pick in the seventh round of the 2020 draft. Although service was and still is my main goal, the opportunity to live out a childhood dream and bring light to the Naval academy and all it has to offer is nothing short of a blessing.

The Fourth of July weekend has given me time to sit and reflect on some of my favorite memories growing up and why it means so much to me. As a military brat, I was very fortunate to have stayed in one place my whole life. I grew up on an army base located on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky. Fort Campbell is where my admiration for the military began. Seeing military aircraft zoom over my house, tanks and Humvees strolling through the streets, or weapons’ firing at the range in the distance all played a huge part in my fascination. I remember as a kid the Fourth of July was full of barbecues, fairs and parades. Families from all over would gather around to shoot fireworks and create memories that would last forever. It wasn’t till I was older that I began to realize what the Fourth of July truly meant. To me, the Fourth of July is a day where we can reflect on those who gave their lives defending this country and all the freedoms we have. Not only those who gave their lives, but also the ones overseas actively fighting and defending the country with families back home. With my father deployed for a good majority of my teenage years, he missed out on being there for a lot of big moments in not only my life but the lives of my mother and siblings. The Fourth of July is a day for my family to celebrate the sacrifices they have made, along with countless others who have worn the nation’s clothes.

Football has always been a big part of my life. I first found love for the sport when I started to realize that the older kids in the neighborhood just couldn’t seem to tackle me. I would drag my lawnmower around the neighborhood and cut endzones into the grass for me and my friends to play. Playing running back was always my first option throughout peewee and even up into college, but somehow I always found myself playing QB. Coming out of high school, I had offers to continue playing football at all three service academies. Combining a military career with the sport I love seemed like a dream come true. After taking a visit to the Naval academy, meeting the coaching staff and learning about all the opportunities I would have after college, it was sort of a no-brainer for me. I committed to the U.S. Naval Academy in hopes of fulfilling my dream of playing football at a high level and serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.

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Growing up in a military family and being around it your whole life, you would think that you would be ready for anything the military would throw at you. I had never been so wrong in my entire life. The initial years at the academy were a lot tougher than I had imagined. Academics were extremely demanding. I was challenged more physically than I had ever been challenged in my life, and trying to balance athletics, academics, and the military was something that definitely took time. Eventually, you get in control of things and establish a routine in all three aspects of life at the academy. The older I got, the better I became at academics, military professionalism and football. My football career was full of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I was fortunate enough to play well my senior year and get a shot at playing at the next level, but the brothers I gained from football at the academy are what I value the most.

My time at the academy has afforded me many opportunities that most will never get in their lifetime. I have slept in the woods, planning an organized attack on an enemy position. I have flown planes, driven ships and even ridden on submarines. There is no other institution in the world that provides these experiences. Through my experiences, I have been able to share my story and open doors to people who may have no other options. Being in the NFL gives me a totally different platform to reach so many different communities. Along with giving the youth hope in maybe also reaching the NFL, I also love to provide them with an option they may not have ever been exposed to. Like the NFL, the military—and specifically a service academy—can change a whole family dynamic. It can break generational cycles and it can set you and your future family up for success. That has been a huge part of my life ever since I stepped on campus and even more now that I have this amazing platform.


I know Albert’s usual column includes lists like Six From the Sideline and Ten Takeaways, so I thought I’d leave you with my 10 random football thoughts.

  • Orange Gatorade is in a league of its own, the best flavor ever.
  • Taking your cleats off after practice is a top-three feeling.
  • Putting on your jersey and shoulder pads shouldn’t be as hard as it is.
  • Chick-fil-A is the best cheat day meal.
  • No superstition is a dumb superstition.
  • I never got tired in peewee football.
  • There’s no better sound than the long whistle ending practice or conditioning.
  • You don’t know true fear until a bee flies into your helmet.
  • Naps on the bus or plane are elite.
  • Air Force and Army fight for second and third.

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