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Former UAB Football Player Brandon Prince Makes It to Purdue

Yesterday’s player in our countdown was happy to share his story about a long path to Purdue.

Central Michigan Chippewas v Purdue Boilermakers
Former receiver Desmond Tardy helped Brandon Prince end up at Purdue.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Yesterday morning when I was working on the “Days to Purdue Football” post I had no idea who Brandon Prince was. To me, he was a name on the roster with a number. All Purdue listed for his bio was that he was a senior that joined the team for spring practice and his last college was UAB.

That piqued my interest. UAB was forced to close its program for two years as part of a power struggle with the parent campus in Tuscaloosa, so unless players had transferred immediately like Indiana’s Jordan Howard they had not played football at all in two years. That got me to start digging.

Well, I found quite a story. I wanted to learn more, so I was able to reach out to him via Facebook in order to find out more. Brandon was happy to share his story in his own words with me:

I went to Austin Peay to play DE and ended up starting as a true freshman at tight end. You have a majority of the story right about the transfer. While at UAB, I would drive 30 min every morning to campus. I would have 4:45am weights, then classes, then practice, then work. Every day.

The article from the past pretty much sums up how everything ended in December of 2014. After that, things got really tough. I had a few scholarships to transfer to other places but everything was too far away from home. So I stayed back and attended a junior college and took only 1 class so I can pause my eligibility clock. I did this while working for a mattress delivery company 6 days a week. When you have other people depending on you, you have to make sacrifices. This was never my long term goal.

I signed a scholarship to Prairie View A&M just outside of Houston Texas. Me and head coach Willie Simmons developed a great relationship and he told me to take however much time I needed to get my dad back on my feet. And all I needed to was report to fall camp that August (2015). That never happened.

Over the summer at my oldest brother’s wedding here in Indiana, my brother and I joked about me moving to Indiana and going to school. That joke turned to reality when 2 weeks after their wedding I packed my bags and moved in with the newlyweds in Indianapolis.

My father was back in his feet and more independent. My brother and his wife hadn't even taken their honeymoon and here I was moving in with them. My brother is a Real Estate developer at Indianapolis based Flaherty and Collins Properties. He got me on as an intern at their corporate office while I took classes at nearby Ivy Tech. Dave Flaherty and Jerry Collins interviewed me personally and gave me an opportunity to find out what area of the company I like that best. It was more of a glorified internship you could say.

I started in the development side of the company then moved to property management then back to development. We had a construction department, but I never thought I'd gain interest in that career field. My whole plan was to take a semester or two at ivy tech and transfer to IU to play football. My former teammates Jordan Howard and Marqui Hawkins were down there and I'd go down and catch their games from time to time during the 2015 season. I would text Jordan from time to time and tell him "I'm transferring, go ahead and put a word in for me with coach" (to walk on). Jordan left after the '15 season to head to the NFL. And in January of ‘16 I started my journey that lead me to Purdue.

I started doing administrative work on the construction side of the for one of the project executives Ronn Stewart (currently senior VP of construction at Pizzuti Companies in Columbus, OH). He basically taught me everything I know about construction. I changed my major at Ivy Tech from Business to Construction Management. I caught on fast and I became his right-hand man for a $121 million high rise tower in downtown Indianapolis.

Little by little he'd start giving me more and more responsibility. After about 3 months I finally got business cards and started meeting with bank representatives and city officials on my own. I knew I that Ivy Tech was just temporary. I had bigger goals and didn't know what my next move was. I knew Indiana didn't have construction management but Purdue, Ball State and Indiana State all did.

I knew the way my finances were I would have to stay home and commute to a local school. Purdue was too far from where we lived in Noblesville to commute every day. Indiana State- I couldn't even tell you where that's at. Ball State was the closest. Well, after talking to former Purdue receiver Desmond Tardy about playing football again, and doing more research on Purdue's Construction Management program, I decided that if I want to be the best in the construction industry, I have to get the best training.

So I went against the grain (My brother went to IU and graduated from McKinney school of law) and applied to Purdue, only to get denied because my GPA at the time wasn't high enough. I also didn't meet the high school foreign language requirement (talk about competitive admissions program). I had a 4.0 at Ivy Tech, but didn't wait till final grades came to apply.

So I immediately got to work on my appeal. After a month I was finally accepted into Purdue construction management program (found out purdue admissions is a little different that anywhere else). But when I got accepted, I was told I had to pay out of state tuition. How could that be? I lived, worked, paid taxes, and went to school in Indiana for over a year but was still considered out of state because my father still lived in Alabama.

The only way to get in state tuition was to fill out an application. Well, my application was denied, so I had to appeal that. I got my appeal in by the deadline but was told that the appeal review committee only meets once a month and that the committee had no other time slots for the month of August and that I had to wait until mid-September before they could hear my case. At this point, I didn't even contact anyone at Purdue football to see if they had any spots open because I knew I possibly wasn't going to stay.

I couldn't afford out of state tuition. I pressed on, still, in hopes of getting this in state tuition appealed. I knew God hadn't lead me this far to turn me around. I commuted from Noblesville to Purdue every morning (try doing that with 7:30 am classes) for about a month before my appeal. I emailed the Purdue football coaches a few times to inquire about walking-on in the spring. I never heard anything back, so I took it upon myself and walked in Mollenkopf to the football offices to talk to one of the coaches. I got directed to then player personnel coach and told him my story. They asked me for film, practice film at least. I couldn't do that at that time because UAB only had 1 film guy and he had his hands filled. It was impossible to get that film.

So I asked if there would be a tryout for spring. The player personnel coach told me he'd put me down on the spring roster. A few weeks went by and I finally had my appeal hearing. I won my appeal and could finally get in state tuition. I no longer had to commute because I could sign a lease on an apartment in West Lafayette. Literally I was sitting at the leasing office of my apartment, on a Friday, signing my lease when coach Hazell called and asked if I could have a meeting with him the following Thursday before they headed off to play Maryland.

I meet with him that Thursday, explained to him my story, and I told him that I've been out of football for almost 2 years so I might have a little rust to shake off by time spring ball starts. He tells me at the conclusion of the meeting that he is looking forward having me be a part of the team. In my mind, I'm thinking I have to get in shape by spring ball. Lol. He told me all further communication will come through the player personnel coach. The next Monday during Illinois game week the personnel coach calls me and tells me to be on standby because they might have room for me to come mid-season, but to not get my hopes up. Just to mentally be ready if they give me a call.

I thought it was a joke, there is no way I'd be able to come in midseason and be a part of the team. Then the call came the Monday afternoon during week 6 (Iowa week) and the personnel coach calls me and asks if I could come by the Mollenkopf to fill out some paper work for football Tuesday afternoon. I get there Tuesday afternoon and was given this card called a "Gold Card" to get filled out by compliance, academic services, and by the training room staff.

I thought it was for spring but come to find out it was for me to join the team, that day. It took me a few days to get the card filled out, but come that Thursday afternoon I was out on the field practicing the sport I love.

Since I've been at Purdue, football has never been my "Plan A". I’m still committed to it, but my focus has always been academics. There was an adjustment period, but I came here with the purpose of getting a degree in a program that has 100% job placement post-graduation. Not a lot of schools have that. Being in the Construction Management program has really been paying off lately: frequent Internship calls, internship interviews, and an occasional "what would you think about working for us" conversations have popped up here and there.

As of right now, I am currently a Project Engineer Intern for Wilhelm Construction based out of Indianapolis. They called me down for an interview just a day after the CM career fair on campus back in the fall and offered me and internship. I had a few internship offers prior to the career fair but this was one of my biggest. I ended up declining their offer because I didn't know what the summer football schedule would be. We didn't even have a head football coach yet, but they stuck to their word and told me if I ever want to come work for them they'd have a spot for me. After finding out my summer schedule back in May I contacted Wilhelm and they stuck to their word. They also give me flexibility in my schedule that allows me to still participate in football related activities throughout the summer. So here I am today, a Project Engineer Intern and a Big 10 Tight End. Can't beat that!

That’s an incredible story from a young man that is clearly motivated for success. The NCAA likes to advertise that most athletes go pro in something other than sports. That rings true for Brandon. He’s a guy with a goal. He has a great path to get there too.

It is an honor to have him as part of the Purdue family.