We have a great story for today’s player. He is yet another walk-on that has earned his playing time (and now a scholarship). Last season injuries thrust him into the spotlight and it lead to one of the more emotional moments of the season.
Aidan O’Connell - Jr.
Long Grove, IL (Stevenson HS)
6’3”, 200 pounds
2020 Projection: Potential Starter at Quarterback
Perhaps the hardest position to earn meaningful minutes as a walk-on is at quarterback. Most schools recruit one per class, so at any given time there are 3-4 scholarship guys ahead of you. There was even a time before he came to Purdue that he might have ended up playing basketball somewhere instead. Naturally, with the investment of a scholarship they are going to get the first looks, so walk-on quarterbacks have to go extra hard.
Well, last season it paid off for AOC. He made waves in fall camp by earning the No. 3 spot on the depth chart, thanks to the desire to redshirt Paul Piferi and the injury to Nick Sipe (though he had already probably beaten out Sipe). Then Elijah Sindelar got hurt and he moved to No. 2. He got his first carer action late against Penn State, then directed a few drives in a bog against Illinois, throwing for 67 yards and a TD.
Then Jack Plummer got hurt.
Given his chance, O’Connell cashed in. He finished the drive Plummer started against Nebraska, then had an excellent game-winning drive where he was 6-for-6 as Purdue went 82 yards in 12 plays to beat Nebraska with 1:08 left.
A week later he got his first career start at Northwestern, about 20 miles from his high school. The local kid who turned down some D-III offers was suddenly starting a Big Ten game as close to his home town as possible. He went 34 of 50 for 271 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions (plus a safety and lost fumble) in a somewhat rough day, but drove Purdue 58 yards in 11 plays and 2:27 to set up the game-winning 39 yard field goal by J.D. Dellinger. After Dellinger’s kick you had this moment:
O’Connell had two more starts and really started to come into his own. Against Indiana in the season finale he was 28 of 49 for 408 yards and 3 TDs as he led Purdue back from down 18 to force overtime. The Boilers even had a chance at a game-winning field goal late, but a dropped pass prevent them from getting in range.
O’Connell is a great story. You love to see guys like this succeed, and his story is not over. He is very much in the mix to be Purdue’s starter if and when football returns. He finished the season with 1,101 yards and 8 TDs against just 4 INTs. He has a pair of game-wining drives with under 4 minutes left to his credit too. He will have every chance to start.