Purdue quarterback David Blough earned raves for his speech during last week’s Big Ten media days.
Around campus, his carefully crafted words struck a different chord.
As teammates and coaches listened to the junior quarterback champion diversity and encourage college football players to use their sport to learn life’s lessons and to use their platform to help others, it reinforced their image of their designated locker room leader.
“He delivered that speech perfectly. He has that voice, presence and charisma about him,” linebacker Markus Bailey said Thursday at the Boilermakers’ annual media day. “He has that moxie and intelligence, everything that you want in a quarterback.”
Everything except a resume full of wins.
Blough did not speak Thursday. He is expected to take questions Friday.
His speech went way beyond football. It touched on some of the most delicate topics in the American lexicon — race, politics and a call to unity. Blough, who is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, even invoked a Bible verse and discussed making five trips to an orphanage in South Africa.
“To me, what makes football the greatest game in the world is that it teaches us to love one another,” Blough said. “A college football locker room consists, roughly, of 105 members. Black, white, Asian, Hispanic. Rich, poor and from the middle class. Christian, Muslim, atheist and Jew. We’ve had players from Sweden; Compton, California; Miami, Florida; Paris, France; right here in Chicago, Illinois; small-town Indiana; and just about everywhere in between. We even have players who affiliate with different political parties. And you know what? That’s the beauty of life.”
Later, Blough added: “Our country could learn from the game of football because diversity is also what makes the United States special. There should be unity rather than division. Football taught me it starts with looking past differences and love the people around you and loving them for who they are. That’s the beauty of life.”
Many who watched his performance think Blough could be just what the Boilermakers need to turn things around.
Purdue hasn’t played in a bowl game since 2012. The Boilermakers have lost four straight to rival Indiana, tying a school record, and attendance continues to dwindle.
On the field, the Cradle of Quarterbacks has become a revolving door — something Blough hopes to change.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Texan didn’t help his cause last season by leading the Big Ten in turnovers, as he noted in the speech, but he appears to have a solid hold on the job heading into the Sept. 2 season opener against Louisville and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.
“He wants to shine every time he is given the opportunity. That is the David that I know,” said new coach Jeff Brohm, a former pro quarterback. “He does everything you ask and more. It’s not fun to experience failure, but I think he has grown from it.”
While his path through West Lafayette, Indiana, certainly hasn’t been a cakewalk, he has persevered.
Blough arrived in West Lafayette, Indiana, thinking he could be the next big thing at a school that has produced Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Len Dawson and Bob Griese.
Instead, he wound up redshirting as a freshman.
His first big break came in September 2015 when he supplanted Austin Appleby as the starter — until he missed the season finale at Indiana with concussion-like symptoms.
Blough returned last season with bigger hopes only to see his completion percentage decline and his interception total jump to 21. Though he did manage to start and finish the season as the starter, the Boilermakers wound up watching Darrell Hazell get fired and interim coach Gerad Parker close out the season at 3-9.
Now Blough is playing for his third coach in two years, trying to get acclimated to a system and a new cast of receivers. He’ll have to maneuver a difficult schedule that includes non-conference games at Missouri and a Friday night matchup with Mid-American Conference contender Ohio.
While it will be a challenge, the Boilermakers have no doubt that they have the right man to turn things around.
“He made us proud,” linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley said. “That speech was a great representation of Purdue. He addressed issues that many times are hard to address, especially with people that are on higher levels than him. He was able to take his platform and do something big with it.”
Notes: Brohm announced Thursday that 10 players had withdrawn from the school. Receivers Malik Kimbrough and Terrance Landers, running backs Keyante Green and David Yancey, offensive linemen Jalen Neal and Johnny Daniels, tight end Brandon Prince, defensive tackle Fred Brown and linebackers Dezwan Polk-Campbell and Tim Faison all have left the team. … Defensive lineman Giovanni Riviere had foot surgery last week. Riviere and sophomore defensive back Brandon Shuman, who was injured in the spring, are likely to miss the entire season. Defensive lineman Chazmyn Turner (knee) and defensive back Jacob Abrams (meniscus surgery) also are injured as practice begins.