Big thanks to Purdue football for having me out for Friday's practice. (Videos coming with David Bell, George Karlaftis, and Payne Durham), but this blog isn't about those conversations.
I was watching practice under the August heat steaming from the brand new turf on the practice field when Coach Marty Biagi approached me during one of the breaks and said "you know you gotta catch one of these punts, right?"
At first I laughed thinking "ahh yeah that'd be something!" But as he continued to stand there and stare at me I realized very quickly that he was, in fact, being dead serious. "Sure, fuck it, I'm the circus clown today. Let's do it". You know, it's kind of what I signed up for by being up there anyways.
Then the special teams portion of practice started to happen. And I saw the punts flying in the air - especially the ones coming off the JUGS machine. "Well...this could go sideways pretty quickly" I thought to myself.
So I waited around for another 30 minutes or so watching the final bit of practice before the team started to huddle together at midfield. Helmets were coming off. Guys were starting to take a knee. I knew.
It's show time.
"WHERE'S JOEY!" Coach Biagi started to scream throughout the practice field with his arms up looking for me. Once he did that, then the rest of the team started to chip in. I put on a perfect dad jog and made my way to the 50-yard line. A big "U" formed of players and the rest of the staff formed around me. One take. One shot. One punt in the sky to bring it home in front of the entire Purdue football program. A "JOEY! JOEY! JOEY!" chant started to break out as I crouched in an athletic stance ready to pounce any direction to get a good jump on the ball.
The equipment manager gave me a thumbs up from 50 yards away, put the ball in the JUGS and into the sky.
I took my first step back, I located the ball, and eased my way underneath it. I brought it home. Then we started a campfire in the middle of the celebration and the theme from "Rudy" started playing in my mind.
But then it ended when they didn't hoist me onto their shoulders and instead turned for another gatorade. Oh well. Still fun. Boiler Up.