Saturday afternoon 26 Purdue seniors will play in their final game at Ross-Ade Stadium. These guys have been through a lot in their careers. They have suffered injuries. They have done a lot of losing. Many entered with a ton of promise under a new coaching regime, and then later stuck around when said coach was fired.
After struggling early in their careers these guys were the backbone of a stunning turnaround last season. They dragged Purdue out of the basement of the Big Ten and, with one win in the next two games, will get a second straight bowl game after only nine wins in four years. All senior classes are special to a school. This year’s senior class has definitely left its mark.
D.J. Knox – With 213 more yards in the last 2-3 games of the season Knox will become the first 1,000 yard rushing since Kory Sheets in 2008. It would be a great sendoff for a guy that missed all of 2016 after tearing his ACL. With 243 yards he will reach 2,000 yards for his career. His 1,000 yard season would only be the 9th such season in school history and if he reaches 2,000 yards he would be the 14th player to reach that mark.
Kamal Hardy – Hardy was a JuCo guy in 2016 that redshirted because of an injury and has primarily been a reserve corner these past two seasons. His highlight was an interception last year at Missouri where he stole a touchdown from a Tiger receiver in the fourth quarter. It didn’t decide the game as Purdue was leading by 32 at the time, but it was a matter of pride to keep them out of the end zone.
David Blough – Blough is the testament to perseverance. He has battled for four years before finally seizing the starting quarterback job for himself this year. He’ll leave school with the single game passing yardage record and with totals among the all-time greats for us. On Saturday he will likely pass 9,000 yards for his career as he is at 8,854. He is fifth on the school list and if Purdue makes a bowl game he will likely pass Kyle Orton for fourth. Blough could have transferred anywhere for his final season but he stayed and has been instrumental in Purdue’s turnaround from the 0-3 start.
Antonio Blackmon – The former walk-on from Ft. Wayne has become a starter and has been great at times this year. He personally denied three touchdowns against Ohio State in the massive upset a few weeks ago and has performed well while being picked on as Purdue’s top corner. Not bad for a guy that came here without a scholarship.
Aaron Banks – El Presidente! The student body president only appeared in one game in his career, but completed his lone pass attempt against Indiana back in 2015. He has been a valuable practice player in that time, however and has balanced a lot of work off the field as President this year.
Tim Cason – Cason has been in and out of the starting lineup for much of his career. He has 37 career tackles and has been in the rotation all season at cornerback while still providing depth on special teams.
Jacob Thieneman – Due to a shoulder injury he is done for at least the regular season, but the former walk-on emerged as a leader and a critical member of the secondary. He led Purdue with four interceptions last season, including one that sealed the bowl win against Arizona. He is everything you want out of a walk-on and more.
Keiwan Jones – Jones has battled knee injuries for much of his career, but when healthy he has been an underrated member of the defensive line. This year has been his best, as he has nine tackles and a sack as regular rotation player at defensive tackle.
Bearooz Yacoobi – Yacoobi hasn’t been a starter in his career but has been a top reserve filling in along the offensive line as needed. He is also a key blocker on field goal attempts. Every program needs depth guys like him.
Kirk Barron – Barron has been a rock in the middle. Saturday will mark his 35th consecutive start at center and he has served as a team captain as well. A vocal leader for the team, Barron has a chance to play at the next level.
Dennis Edwards – We haven’t had Edwards that long, but he has been a solid starter this year as a graduate transfer from Western Kentucky. He has solidified the offensive line by giving us solid play at guard.
Conor Sweeney – Sweeney is a walk-on that joined the team last year. He has not played to my knowledge, but he is a solid scout team contributor.
Cole Herdman – Herdman will probably finish his career with more than 1,000 yards receiving. He has 85 receptions for 958 yards and 8 touchdowns. Injuries have limited him to only 12 catches for 144 yards this year, but before that he was a reliable target that had at least one reception in 30 straight games before this year’s opener.
Isaac Zico – JuCo receivers often break out in year two and that has been the case for Zico. Last season he only had six receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown. This year he has 32 catches for 576 yards and 4 TDs, with his best game coming at Illinois. He is a deep threat and his 1-handed TD catch started the Ohio State rout.
Markell Jones – Knox might be the 14th 2,000 yard rusher in school history, but Jones was the 13th. His career has been up and down since a great freshman season, but he gashed Indiana for over 200 yards last season. He’ll finish with over 2,500 yards, and with 214 more yards this year he’ll move into 5th on the all-time rushing list at Purdue.
Terry Wright – Many of the same things about Zico can be said about Wright. He had a little more production last year, but broke out this season with 21 receptions for 346 yards and 5 TDs. Against Iowa he had a huge day with 6 catches for 146 yards and 3 TDs, giving him a Big Ten Player of the Week Award.
Spencer Evans – The rare two-year grad transfer, Evans has emerged as a steady and accurate kicker. He is now 23 of 31 on field goals in his career and his game-winner against Iowa came in a high pressure situation that might end up being the difference between a bowl game and no bowl game.
Joe Schopper – Schopper has been Purdue’s punter from day 21 and under the trickery that Jeff Brohm employs he has been a versatile weapon. On fake punts or field goals he is 5 for 5 in his career in getting first downs. He has completed two passes in his career for first downs and his fake field goal first down against Ohio State was huge in the upset. He is fearless.
Brian Bravo – Another career walk-on, Bravo has yet to see action in a game. He has, however, been in the mix as a reserve kicker for four years.
Ben Makowski – If Purdue makes a bowl game Makowski will join Schopper as two guys who have started 50 games in their career. Makowski has been a rock at longsnapper and even caught a pass last season at Northwestern.
Ryan Sadkowski – Sadkowski is another career walk-on that hasn’t played, but has been a capable reserve for Makowski just in case.
Eric Swingler – This Purdue class is rife with walk-ons that have earned scholarships and Swingler is among that number. After battling back from a torn ACL in 2016 he has become a key reserve on the offensive line and spot starter. He will finish the regular season starting at left tackle.
Ethan Smart – Another JuCo transfer, Smart has not been a starter, but he has been a key reserve providing much needed depth. Last season he saw action in five games.
Shane Evans – Another two-year grad transfer, Evans has been a starter at guard that steadied an offensive line that had a lot of questions before last year. He has been excellent since coming over from Northern Illinois.
Jarrett Burgess – The old man of the team, the 28-year-old former baseball player has 15 receptions for 174 yards and a touchdown in his career to go with a rushing TD as a freshman in 2015. He has been mostly a special teamer this year, but he has provided key depth as needed.
Ray Ellis – Our final senior is another player that was brought in as a JuCo transfer to provide immediate depth. This season he has five tackles in seven games mostly as a reserve, but he played in the bowl game last year and recorded a sack.
These 26 players have given Purdue a lot over the last 2-5 years. More importantly though, they are part of our Purdue family as alumni. Only a few have a chance at the NFL, but we’re grateful for what they have given us.