WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- One by one, they took the microphone. Standing before the Purdue players and coaching staff, the program’s alumnus each introduced themselves.
Each greeting started simple enough with the former Boilermakers stating their name, which team they played on, and current occupation. Many of the players slumped into their seats.
The tone in the Mollenkopf Center changed when Harry Basan, a Boilermaker from the late 1950s, grabbed the microphone.
“Stand up if you’re going to play like hell for Coach Hazell,” he said to the team. “Stand up! Stand up!
The players arose from their seats and all onlookers began to cheer.
Soon after, it was Dave Knox, a member of Purdue’s 1967 Rose Bowl team, who energized the room with a tale of that team’s success.
“We need to get back there, guys,” Knox remarked to cap off the speech.
The Purdue great who grabbed the entire team’s attention was Mike Alstott, a decorated 12-year NFL veteran and Super Bowl champion. Alstott spoke of the one regret he holds from his Purdue playing career—not getting the program to a bowl game.
His voice shifted to a commanding tone toward the end of his speech.
“It’s your time,” Alstott said. “Bust your ass.”
Since becoming Purdue’s head coach, Darrell Hazell has entrenched himself in Purdue history. His goal is to bring the Boilermakers back to the Rose Bowl while fostering a football-hungry community. He hasn’t held those aspirations from anyone since his introductory press conference.
Hazell brings a winning pedigree to Purdue, and the change has welcomed unity and enthusiasm to the program. That was never more evident than from the alumni who traveled—some a long distance—to spend time with the team on Saturday.
“I wanted out players to feel that,” Hazell said to the media after the game. “If we can start to feel that, believe that, we’ll do some special things.”
Without question, the Boilermakers felt it. With each word of encouragement, they were on the edge of their seats.
“We all know the rich history that Purdue has,” senior quarterback Rob Henry said. “We know about those guys going on and being successful. Hearing it from those guys is motivation for us going into the summer and the fall.”
Purdue ended its spring drills in a comfortable place. The new coaching staff established its ways—from in-game philosophies to off-the-field expectations. Each practice brought fast-paced action, extreme attention to detail, and a constant barrage of new information.
With fall camp just a few months away, Hazell and his staff have outlined their demands and expectations. The players have bought in.
“They really care and want you to perform at the highest level,” sophomore defensive tackle Michael Rouse III said. “The new rules Coach Hazell has in place, it’s to make sure we’re the best that we can be.”
Hazell has planted the seeds for his Purdue program, and he has the support in place for growth.
“How far we are, I’m not sure,” Hazell said. “But we’re headed in the right direction.”