Sunday, October 8, 2017

Purdue legend Drew Brees reflects on the life of Joe Tiller

                                                         Photo Credit: Jon Opiela

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

Many former Purdue football players came back to campus on Saturday afternoon to remember the late Joe Tiller. Tiller, the winningest coach in Purdue history, passed away last Saturday.

During the game, Purdue honored members of the team that won the 1997 Alamo Bowl. Current New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was a true freshman at Purdue throughout the 1997 season. 

“Obviously, I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to play for a man like [Tiller],” Brees said. “He’s the reason I came to Purdue. If he doesn’t come to Purdue, then I don’t come to Purdue.”

“Here we are— 20 years later. I’m still having the opportunity to play the game that I love as a result of having him coach me here.  Just having all the relationships, the teammates, and the people that I met from Purdue, having a chance to see them is bringing back a ton of great memories.”

Brees talked about how many former Boilermakers saw Tiller one final time before his death.

“A lot of us had a chance to see him back in July out in Buffalo, Wyoming.  It was great to just be with him,” Brees said.  “I brought my kids out there… it was great to let them have the opportunity to meet him.”

Brees recalled his first introduction to college football under Tiller.

“The fourth quarter rolls around and it’s like 36-7 or something like that.  And then he looks at me and is like, ‘You’re in.’ As a true freshman, I’m thinking… alright,” Brees said. “I remember I ran 22 plays— 21 of them were passes.  The only run was like a reverse to Vinny [Sutherland] where he score.  So that was my introduction to college football and I was like alright, this is going to be a wild ride.”

Brees finished his career at Purdue with 11,792 passing yards and 90 touchdowns.  Brees also completed 1026 of 1678 passes (61.1 percent) and finished in the top five of Heisman Trophy voting twice.  Brees’ 1026 completions, 90 touchdowns, and 11,792 passing yards all still stand as Big Ten career records.

When asked about the job that first year coach Jeff Brohm has done, Brees had nothing but great things to say.

“I think Coach Brohm has done a tremendous job.  He’s changed the attitude and the culture, for sure.  I mean, there’s an excitement, there’s energy, there’s a belief that we can compete with anybody and win any game,” Brees said. “It started with that Louisville game.  I think that got a lot of people excited around here. That’s a great program. With the Heisman Trophy winner [Lamar Jackson] at quarterback, we can compete with those guys and really had a chance to win that game.”

“Rattle off two really big wins, obviously face a tough Michigan opponent and lose. I mean, I think he’s given us a ton to be excited about.  I think the players have bought into the program.  He’s made an instant impact which is hard to do.”