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Rookie receiver A.T. Perry proved capable fill-in for New Orleans Saints against Minnesota

"There was a little jitters there, but over time I just told myself to just play football"

Check out the game action shots from the New Orleans Saints game against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10 of the 2023 NFL season.

A.T. Perry defied gravity and a defender in order to catch his first touchdown pass in the NFL, a 15-yarder from Jameis Winston that was the final touchdown in the New Orleans Saints' 27-19 loss to Minnesota on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

But doesn't sound like he did the best job of keeping track of it.

"I definitely want to keep the touchdown ball," the receiver said when asked if he kept the ball from his first reception, his touchdown reception, or both.

It was somewhat understandable that Perry wouldn't have been paying strict attention to anything peripheral, considering he was in the midst of playing his most extensive snaps – he stepped in as the 'X' receiver when Michael Thomassuffered a knee injury on New Orleans' first series – and New Orleans was in the process of attempting to overcome a 27-3 deficit.

For his part, the 6-foot-6 rookie from Wake Forest did exactly what genetics screamed he should on the touchdown catch. As Winston rolled left and pivoted to throw back toward the right back corner of the end zone, Perry jumped over the smaller defender (5-11 cornerback Byron Murphy Jr.) and muscled the ball away from him.

"Whenever a ball is in the air and it's coming toward me, it's mine," he said. "That's the mentality, I've always had that mentality. When I got a feel for him, I readjusted from there, but I made sure I had to come down with that ball."

Perry said he wasn't nervous as he was pressed into action. The sixth-round pick was targeted four times and caught two passes for 38 yards, second-most on the team.

"I felt calm and comfortable, just going into the gameplan throughout the whole week, just making sure I stay on top of the details," he said. "I went into the game confident, honestly. There was a little jitters there, but over time I just told myself to just play football.

"In college ... they always told us to be ready, you never know when your name is going to be called. I've been in a situation like that before. Just learn from it, and always stay ready."

Perry said the immediacy of need helped keep him calm.

"I didn't even think of it that way," he said. "That would apply pressure to myself, so I just told myself to be calm. I play the 'X' role behind Mike, just make sure that I follow what he does. So just going in the game, I wasn't trying to put pressure on myself. I just went in and played with confidence."

Partly, the confidence is a result of working with Winston at the practice facility, even on Tuesdays, the day off for players.

"On Tuesdays in the mornings we get together, just throw different routes, just getting a feel," Perry said. "Against different coverages, what the ball placement should be. Just us consistently doing that, going into the game is nothing. It's there.

"We talk all the time, even in practice whether it's after a route or just coming in after practice and throwing that same exact route. Even after, when we're watching film together with the quarterbacks, we're always talking, putting things together and putting them in perspective so that when we get on the field, we don't have to worry about different coverages and things like that. It's just, quick."

Perry said he also has been assisted by Thomas.

"Mike has been great," he said. "He's always staying on me about the little things, on and off the field. He's always on top of me, making sure I'm always good, making sure I'm doing what I'm supposed to do. Making sure I'm always up on my game and not being complacent."

Helping make sure that when the time came, Perry was ready.

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