Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Purdue's Nontraditional Head Coach Eager to Make His Debut Against Fresno State
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 8 months ago on
August 30, 2023

Share

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue coach Ryan Walters is settling into his dream job.

When he walks onto the practice field, he sees his players chasing his vision with a plan he started compiling more than a decade ago. His office overlooks the tunnel at his new home field, the recently renovated Ross-Ade Stadium.

On Saturday, the 37-year-old Walters may even run through the fog as the train horn blares. The sixth-youngest head coach in the Bowl Subdivision is ready to make his Boilermakers’ debut against Fresno State.

“I accepted the job on a Sunday night, flew out here Monday and we were walking around the field (that) Monday evening,” Walters said. “I was with my family, inside the stadium and they had my picture on the Jumbotron. It was like, ‘Wow, you know, this is for real, like I’m the head coach here.’ The gravity of that weight, I felt it immediately and wanted to just start going to work.”

His schedule has been virtually non-stop since that moment last December.

Walters spent months hiring assistants, recruiting prep stars, persuading some Purdue players to stay while finding help in the transfer portal, even awarding a scholarship to last year’s top rusher Devin Mockobee. Then came spring ball and a summer getting acclimated to his new campus, new community and new lifestyle before camp opened.

The whirlwind hasn’t fazed Walters, who has been around football most of his life.

His father, Marc, played quarterback at Colorado when Gary Barnett was an offensive assistant. His childhood babysitter was former Buffaloes star Eric Bienemy, now the Washington Commanders assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.

Walters started his college career as a Colorado quarterback before moving to safety and eventually taking one brief shot at an NFL job before embarking on a coaching career that included mentors such as Barnett, Bob Stoops, Barry Odom and Bret Bielema.

“I definitely took a lot of notes, so I’ve got a pretty good idea what I want to do,” Walters said. “So it wasn’t like, ‘I killed the interview. I got the job and then OK, now I’ve got to figure out how to be a head coach.’ It was more ‘I got the job, execute the plan.’”

Exactly what his strategy looks like is being kept under wraps until Saturday. Still, a few things are clear.

Walters is no traditional Purdue head coach. He’s the first with a predominantly defensive background to hold the title since Leon Burtnett was promoted from defensive coordinator in 1982 and just the second defensive-minded coach hired from outside the program in 50 years.

Instead of seeking advice about filling his staff, Walters followed his instincts.

Authenticity Strikes Chord with Players

His authenticity struck a chord with players such as new starting quarterback Hudson Card, who Walters targeted after the former Texas prep star entered the transfer portal.

“Purdue reached out to me more like in the middle of the recruitment phase. Just thankful that he hit me up,” Card said. “A lot of it was going with my gut feeling. Some of the opportunities, I didn’t feel it was the right place in my heart. I decided to wait, and Purdue was that answer.”

Card’s athleticism also serves as a stark contrast to Purdue’s predominantly pre-eminent dropback quarterbacks — Bob Griese, Len Dawson, Drew Brees and Aidan O’Connell. Walters knows Card’s mobility will cause headaches for opponents, too.

What won’t change: Purdue’s penchant for playing fast and scoring points.

New offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, the former Texas Tech star, was hired to install the Air Raid scheme. Walters wants to throw the ball to score, run the ball to win and Harrell’s job is strike the proper balance.

“I think the most important thing is to make sure all your playmakers touch the football, whether they’re in the backfield, whether they’re receivers, you know Hudson is an elite athlete himself,” Harrell said. “I think getting our best, most explosive ball carriers the ball is our most important job.”

Walters also realizes Purdue’s successes or failures will be a reflection of him, the Big Ten’s fourth Black coach and one of 14 in the 133-member FBS.

But for Walters, this is not a mission.

It’s part of the journey his best friend, his father, encouraged him to make all those years ago when he accepted his first coaching job — student assistant at his alma mater in 2009.

“He introduced me to the game,” Walters said. “He coached me, our Pop Warner teams, and he was always there to throw the ball around in the backyard or pick up a basketball and go shoot hoops. That was definitely impactful on my career. And then his sort of no-excuses attitude. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard him complain.”

With so many questions and so much work still to finish before Saturday, Walters doesn’t have time to complain, either.

Instead, he’s trying to remain the calm, stoic leader of Purdue’s program while anticipating the emotional rush he expects when the Boilermakers begin the centennial season at Ross-Ade.

“There’s not much time for daydreaming,” Walters said. “But every time I do, I get goosebumps. You try to put yourself in those moments, so it doesn’t surprise you. But I don’t think there’s anything I can do from a mental standpoint to capture what that moment is going to feel like.”

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

DON'T MISS

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

DON'T MISS

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

DON'T MISS

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

DON'T MISS

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

DON'T MISS

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

DON'T MISS

Israeli Settlers Rampage Through a West Bank Village, Killing 1 Palestinian and Wounding 25

DON'T MISS

US Intelligence Finding Shows China Surging Equipment Sales to Russia to Help War Effort in Ukraine

DON'T MISS

From Tragedy to Triumph: The Land Before Time Litter’s Journey

DON'T MISS

Oakland Officials Vote to Include ‘San Francisco’ in Airport’s Name

UP NEXT

US Intelligence Finding Shows China Surging Equipment Sales to Russia to Help War Effort in Ukraine

UP NEXT

From Tragedy to Triumph: The Land Before Time Litter’s Journey

UP NEXT

Ohtani’s Ex-Interpreter Charged With Stealing $16M in Betting Case

UP NEXT

Fresno Monopoly is Coming. You Have a Chance to Make It Your Own.

UP NEXT

After Fong Ruling, a ‘Bitter Pill to Swallow’ for US Senate Losers Katie Porter & Barbara Lee?

UP NEXT

Fresno’s ‘Rods on the Bluff’ Is Driven by Friendship, Creativity, and Achievement

UP NEXT

10 Things to Remember about O.J. Simpson

UP NEXT

Great Team Effort Leads Giants to a 7-1 Win Over Nationals

UP NEXT

This Chill Tabby Cat Loves Hanging Out With People. Is He Your ‘Purrfect’ Match?

UP NEXT

Tara VanDerveer Retires as Stanford Women’s Hoops Coach After Setting NCAA Wins Record This Year

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

3 hours ago

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

4 hours ago

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

4 hours ago

Israeli Settlers Rampage Through a West Bank Village, Killing 1 Palestinian and Wounding 25

6 hours ago

US Intelligence Finding Shows China Surging Equipment Sales to Russia to Help War Effort in Ukraine

6 hours ago

From Tragedy to Triumph: The Land Before Time Litter’s Journey

8 hours ago

Oakland Officials Vote to Include ‘San Francisco’ in Airport’s Name

8 hours ago

Several Writers Decline Recognition From PEN America in Protest Over Its Israel-Hamas War Stance

8 hours ago

US Consumer Sentiment Falls Slightly as Outlook for Inflation Worsens

9 hours ago

A Near-Total Ban on Abortion Has Supercharged the Political Dynamics of Arizona, a Key Swing State

9 hours ago

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

A new era of Fresno State men’s basketball is here. The Red Wave came out strong and welcomed Vance Walberg as coach with a Bulldog pa...

35 mins ago

35 mins ago

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

2 hours ago

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

3 hours ago

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

3 hours ago

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

4 hours ago

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

4 hours ago

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

6 hours ago

Israeli Settlers Rampage Through a West Bank Village, Killing 1 Palestinian and Wounding 25

6 hours ago

US Intelligence Finding Shows China Surging Equipment Sales to Russia to Help War Effort in Ukraine

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend