ASHBURN, Va. -- Shortly after receiving his new dumbbell set, Washington Redskins running back Samaje Perine, then about 12 years old, realized it wasn't enough. He needed more weight. But rather than ask his mom for a new set, he found bricks, duct-taped them to the dumbbells and proceeded with his workouts.
And a legend was born. Sort of. His ingenuity, and love of working out, placed him on a path to the NFL. It helped him top Adrian Peterson in one area, lifting a car and becoming an almost mythical figure in the Oklahoma Sooners weight room. One story toppled another.
Even now, his mother shrugs her shoulders at the memory of his first dumbbell set.
"All he had to do was ask for a new set, and we would have gotten him more," his mother, Gloria Perine said.
That strength is one reason why he was good enough that Washington drafted him in the fourth round. It helped him rush for an NCAA-record 427 yards in one game as a freshman. It broke the spirit of defenders throughout his college tenure.
"I remember defensive backs checking out of the game like, 'I’m done tackling this guy,'" said Oklahoma's Jerry Schmidt, the Sooners' strength coach whose official title is director of sports enhancement.
Here are tales about Perine's feats of strength:
Lifting cars: Late one night in the summer of 2015, Perine noticed a woman with a flat tire in the parking lot of the Bud Wilkinson House on Oklahoma's campus. She didn't have a car jack.
"So I just helped her out," he said.
By lifting the car so the back left tire could be changed. Perine's mom said he would only laugh when she asked him about it, not knowing if it was myth or real. But it was real. Perine sort of shrugged it off by pointing out it was "a pretty small car. A Smart Car." They weigh 1,500 pounds.
"If you lift one side, the whole side is coming up," he said. "It was kind of heavy ... I mean, I wouldn't say it was easy. It's still a car."
Perine said he was alone, but Oklahoma running back Daniel Brooks once told Soonersports.com that he saw what happened. Brooks added to the myth when he told the website, "He was curling the car, too, I think."
"That part is made up," he said.
Balcony pullups: At their two-story house in Pflugerville, Texas, Perine, sometime around his freshman year of high school, found another way to work out. He did pullups on their second-floor balcony.
"Which freaked me out," Gloria said. "He would hang up there and do pullups, which was pretty scary."
The rails on the balcony did not go all the way down to the floor, leaving a gap so Perine could hang off the balcony with his hands on the floor and pull himself up.
The only thing between Perine and the ground: a flower bed.
Did he ever fall?
"Not that I know of," she said.
Deck of card workouts: Before heading home for a break during his sophomore year, Perine asked an Oklahoma assistant strength coach for a strenuous workout he could do at home. So the assistant, Mahala Wiggins, suggested using a deck of cards.
Every card was assigned a point value. In Perine's workouts, a king, for example, would be worth 25. Whatever card he pulled, that's how many sit-ups or push-ups he'd do. In his numbering system, a deck would equate to 792 reps. He'd finish an entire deck -- for both sit-ups and push-ups. Now that he's away from the Redskins facility, Perine said he'd resume these workouts.
"I always work out when I go home," he said. "I'm never the type to sit down and chill out too long. I have to keep moving -- do something else or I get bored. I eat too much just to be bored so I find a way to work out."
Stronger than Peterson: The one-time Sooner great, and future NFL Hall of Famer, was known for his strength as well. Schmidt said Peterson's bench was about 390 or 400 pounds. Schmidt said Perine's max bench was 440 pounds. That's like benching an average-sized piano -- with a small child sitting on it.
Of course, the 217-pound Peterson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at the combine, broad-jumped 10 feet, seven inches and had a vertical leap of 38.5 inches. Perine ran a 4.65; had a vertical of 33 inches and a broad jump of nine feet, eight inches. But at 238 pounds, those are still solid numbers.
"The way Samaje explodes and his low center of gravity ... that's what makes him," Schmidt said. "His legs are the size of tree trunks. AD would run higher, but he's faster.
"Samaje is so explosive, and Adrian was the same way. There's a 20-pound weight difference, but the amount of explosion and the amount of power these guys have is ridiculous."
But Perine said, "AP's in a whole other league."
Still, Schmidt said some linemen can bench what Perine does, but they can’t match his squat (540) or power clean (380). Perine said he once squatted 600 pounds in high school.
"No one was lifting more [at Oklahoma]," Schmidt said. "It wasn't even close."
Sometimes, when Perine would get in position to lift the amount of weights coaches had placed on the bar, he'd shoot a glance at the strength coaches.
"The main thing is just the look you get from him like, 'Is this all you’ve got?'" said Schmidt, Oklahoma's strength coach for the past 18 years. "It's hard to explain as a coach when a guy looks at you like that. I thought I'd do something to him, and he's laughing at this."
Perine said now when he does squats, he'll do five sets of eight repetitions squatting between 315-345 pounds and two sets of 10 at 285 pounds. Instead of benching this spring, he'd bench dumbbells, with 115 pounds in each hand. At the combine, he benched 225 pounds 30 times -- only four offensive linemen did more. And Perine said he once did 35 reps of 225 pounds in high school.
"I just see what I’m doing as being the norm for me," he said. "I love the weight room, and I love to work out."