WEST LAFAYETTE -- When coach Darrell Hazell walks into Purdue’s Mollenkopf Center in the wee hours of each morning, the light in the quarterbacks room is often on. Danny Etling likes to start his studying early.
The freshman quarterback was named Purdue’s starter during the bye week. He wasted no time getting to work.
Etling passed on a trip home during fall break, electing to stay in West Lafayette with teammate Danny Anthrop. But most of his hours were spent in the film room. Etling’s first career start comes on Saturday against Nebraska’s vaunted Blackshirt defense. He’s more ready than ever before—but still getting better each day.
“He got so much better since the beginning of the season,” said Hazell of Purdue’s new starting quarterback. “It’s all about preparation. He prepares like a nine-year vet in the league.”
The way Etling prepares is a little weird, even he conceded this. There’s no sitting during his film study. Instead, he stands and acts out each play, shouting out the pre-snap cadences and pointing out reads. In this room, it’s just the quarterback, his notebook and the film.
“Hopefully, not too many people see it,” Etling joked.
The process of improving is something Etling embraces. He loves studying the game of football.
“It’s a business to him,” Hazell said. “He’d better be going to class.”
Growing up, Etling played just about every sport but football. Finally, in fourth grade, Danny begged his mother to let him play football. He bet her that he would win a tennis tournament, and she took him up on that. One day later, Etling was signed up to play football.
In his first year of pee-wee football, Etling was put at quarterback and was part of a winless team. In his second season, the team won the championship. The obsession only grew from there.
Etling was the quarterback while growing through each level of the game. When he wasn’t playing the game, he was watching it.
“My childhood was consumed with being like Peyton Manning,” Etling said.
In high school at Terre Haute (Ind.) South, football became Etling’s opportunity. He became a highly-touted recruit with much of the Big Ten showing interest. But he always wanted to be a Boilermaker.
Etling arrived early at Purdue in January, joining the program just as Hazell’s new staff was being finalized. Instead of being a fresh face, he was just one of the guys. It’s a decision that helped him immensely.
The debut of Etling in the Northern Illinois game had its share of good and bad. He finished with two touchdown passes and two interceptions. The emotions were high and the game was moving more than 100 miles per hour. The mistakes are something he knows are correctable.
“They were just freshman mistakes—throwing the ball late, throwing the ball high,” he said. “Controlling my emotions, that’s got to be big for me. Just not making freshman mistakes; making the right decisions.”
When Etling takes the field against the Cornhuskers, making his first career start, he’ll be more than prepared. His hours in the film room and many notebooks have been all for this opportunity.
“Being a starting quarterback in the Big Ten is something I’ve dreamed of,” he said. “Now, it’s here. It’s indescribable.”