With each commencement comes the reality that college is not always a cut-and-dry process. Going directly from high school through college is often not the path taken by graduates. For Michael Perceval, the journey to becoming a fall 2018 graduate at FAMU was filled with an emotional rollercoaster.
Perceval came to FAMU in 2013, with aspirations of earning a football scholarship. At the time, Earl Holmes was the head coach of the Rattler football team. Holmes would give Perceval the opportunity to play for the Rattlers. In 2014, Perceval saw action in seven games where he garnered 11 tackles, mostly on special teams. In 2015, Perceval saw action as a defensive back. He played in five games and carded four tackles.
FAMU Associate Director of Athletics, Vaughn Wilson, remembers meeting Perceval for the first time. “I first met Michael when we were doing head shots when he was a freshman. He insisted on having his Haitian flag and Haitian headband on. I had to explain, a little to his displeasure, that all players were to wear exactly the same thing and the flag and headband wouldn’t be allowed. He wasn’t happy and I can see that the symbolism of Haiti meant a lot to him,” Wilson said.
2016 was Perceval’s most productive year on the field. He played in 10 games, collecting 17 tackles, with eight of those being solos and nine being assisted. He also had one tackle-for-loss, one pass defended and a fumble recovery. He finished his playing in 2017 with eight tackles in four games.
The opportunity to play collegiate football was a dream for Perceval and he got to realize it at FAMU. The Palm Beach native completed the dream on Saturday with the acceptance of his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science and History.
“My parents migrated to the U.S. in the 90s and I was the first person born out of about 100 little cousins. I was the first one born in the U.S., I was the first to go to high school and the first to graduate college, so it (degree) means a lot,” Perceval said.
Perceval’s family is Haitian. They last came to Tallahassee to drop him off to college and were only able to return to see him graduate. His family came in force to see a historic moment in the family’s history. His graduation is now viewed as an expectation among the younger relatives in the family. He says he drew energy from their presence at graduation and that it is an infinite blessing to have the support of his family.
Perceval had to take a few minutes to gather himself during the interview as he reflected on the journey to get to this point, how he represents a hope for his family and what lies ahead. He currently works at a detention center in Tallahassee. “It’s a blessing to give back and be a stepping stone for them to follow me,” said Perceval.
Steven Jerry, a former assistant coach during Perceval’s time hear, expressed heartfelt appreciation for his drive. “He had his share of difficulties of getting through college. He struggled at times to make it. He’s a really good kid and the perseverance to keep fighting is his calling card. So often people see athletes and forget that they also have to maintain a level of accomplishment in the classroom in order to get on the field. He fell behind the 8-ball a few times, but his determination pulled him through. HBCU’s are about kids like him. There’s not a large percentage of kids in his situation who make it through. What we did as coaches, as his teammates and as his friends was support him in any way we could to make sure he crossed the goal line. It really is heart-warming to know that he finished the task and now has set the bar for the rest of his family. He literally carried the weight of his family across the stage with him,” said Jerry.
Attaining his degree from FAMU has immediately opened opportunities for Perceval. He has accepted an offer to work in Atlanta that will also allow him to coach football. “The long nights and early mornings…tested me a lot and not to accept defeat. I had a lot of people that were with me and able to help me out. Staff, students coaches and everyone,” said Perceval.