DECATUR, Ala. – Legendary football player Benny Perrin passed away last week, after taking his own life. Still in shock, many of his friends and family gathered Tuesday night at his popular restaurant in Decatur.
“People come here feel like they’re a part of Benny, and Benny’s been a big part of everyone else,” said Mike Caldwell, the manager of B.B. Perrin’s Restaurant.
B.B. Perrin’s bears more than just Benny’s name.
“His laughter, his commitment not only to the restaurant but to his family,” said Natalie Thomas, a regular at the sports bar.
Pictures cover the walls, featuring one of the best athletes the River City has ever known.
“They could almost invent a game or a sport up and you’d think he’d been playing it for all of his life. He was just a natural,” said Caldwell.
Benny made a name for himself on the gridiron, but played just about every sport offered at Decatur High School. In addition to football, he suited up for basketball, baseball and track.
Perrin was drafted out of high school to play for the Philadelphia Phillies, but ditched his bat and glove after being recruited by the holiest name in Crimson Tide football.
“Bear Bryant came to him and told him if you just concentrate on football I’ll get you in the NFL so he quit baseball and concentrated on football,” said Caldwell.
Benny won two National Championships with the Tide before rolling on to play safety for four years with the St. Louis Cardinals in the NFL from 1982-85. But all those years of heavy hits took their toll.
“You could get hit and get your bell rung and kind of give you some smelling salts and the next thing you know, you’re back in,” said Caldwell.
Mike believes those hits could have contributed to taking Benny’s life.
“Just a great person, loved his kids and his grandchild,” said Caldwell.
He says some of Perrin’s happiest were spent under the roof. “He wanted to open up a restaurant – he and his brother – and that’s why he called it B-B’s – Benny and Braxton,” he said.
The sports bar quickly found a loyal following.
“Was going table to table talking to people, not necessarily asking how’s your food, but more like how’s your day been?” said Natalie Thomas.
Now, even without their fearless leader, Mike says the work must go on.
“Don’t have any intentions of closing, this is what he wanted,” said Caldwell.
B.B. Perrin’s bears more than just Benny’s name – it now carries on his legacy.
“It meant a lot to him, it really did,” said Caldwell.
A celebration of life will be held this Sunday at Epic Church. All those attending are encouraged to wear Alabama jerseys in Benny’s honor. The service begins, fittingly, at 5:23, in honor of Benny’s jersey number.