Although a professional-bowl-caliber defensive lineman, Perry became a national media sensation when head coach Mike Ditka began using the massive rookie as a running back.
Football player. Perry was born in Aiken on December 16, 1962, the tenth of Hollie and Inez Perry’s twelve children. Weighing more than thirteen pounds at birth, Perry seemed born to play football. He was introduced to the game in East Aiken by the elementary-school principal T. W. Williams. Perry worked for Williams doing various chores to earn money to pay the fee to play. As a teenager at Aiken High School, Perry excelled in football and also basketball. After graduating in 1981, Perry became the focus of nationwide collegiate football recruiting, and after rejecting offers from UCLA and Ohio State, he signed with Clemson University. At Clemson, Perry soon earned the nickname “G. E.” from teammates and “Refrigerator” or “Fridge” from others because his six-foot, three-inch, 320-pound stature resembled the kitchen appliance. Playing middle guard, “Refrigerator” Perry earned the distinction of being Clemson’s first three-time All American (1982–1984), setting team records in quarterback sacks that stood until his brother Michael Dean surpassed him in 1987. A first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 1985, Perry played nine seasons with the Bears.
Although a professional-bowl-caliber defensive lineman, Perry became a national media sensation when head coach Mike Ditka began using the massive rookie as a running back. During a nationally televised Monday Night Football game against the Green Bay Packers, Perry opened the way for two touchdowns by teammate Walter Payton and then scored one himself. His nationwide popularity was secured when he scored the final touchdown in the Bears’ 46–10 rout of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Perry remained with the Bears until 1993, when he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. He retired from the National Football League in 1995 but nine months later signed with the World Football League to play in Europe for the London Monarchs. In 1996 Perry left the Monarchs and returned to Aiken to run a family business. He resided there with his wife, Sherry, and their four children.
In recent years, Perry’s life has been marked by health problems. In 2008, he was diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome, a chronic nerve inflammation disorder. He has also struggled with complications due to diabetes and obesity.
Hewitt, Brian. “The Refrigerator” and the Monsters of the Midway: William Perry and the Chicago Bears. New York: New American Library, 1985. Murphy, Austin. “Chillin’ with the Fridge.” Sports Illustrated 93 (July 31, 2000): 84–90.
Smith, Chris. “The Perry Clan and Its Roots.” Greenville News, July 29, 1984, pp. C1, C10. Telander, Rick. “Monster of the Midway.” Sports Illustrated 63 (November 4, 1985): 42–49.