Purdue University

1984 - 86 Boilermakers
(Authentic Reproduction)




Leon Burtnett garnered Big Ten Coach Of The Year honors and greeted Boilermaker fans with a bit of a change in the helmet design and an improved 7-5 record that included victories over Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State and a close 27-24 loss to Virginia in the Peach Bowl. The old gold shell was adorned with a white one-inch center stripe and one-half-inch black flanking stripes. The black Purdue "P" logo with white border remained on each side of the helmet and the entire package was set off nicely by the black facemask. QB Jim Everett did not win the starting job until a week before the opener against the Irish but was then "the man" becoming the Boilermakers first QB to throw for over 3000 in a single season. End Steve Griffin caught sixty-four passes while RB's Ray Wallace and Rodney Carter both could catch as well as run. The defense was very much improved with Freshman All American Tony Visco and Fred Strickland manning the DE spots and LB Kevin Sumlin handling opponents' rushing attacks. DB Rod Woodson overcame a slow start to again excel with 139 tackles. Kentucky sprint champ Chris Dishman gave stability to the secondary and the season gave hope for a possible conference championship in '85. 
1985 came as a disappointment to fans after the potential shown in '84. With Everett throwing for a monstrous 3651 yards and leading the NCAA in total offense, a 5-6 record was incomprehensible to many. RB Rodney Carter was the nation's leading receiver with ninety-eight receptions out of the backfield and Wallace the Boilers leading rusher with 522 yards. Carter went to the Steelers, Wallace to the Oilers and then finished his NFL career with the Steelers. Everett of course had a lengthy and productive NFL career with the Rams and Saints, finishing his final year with the Chargers. Everett unfortunately is still remembered for being sacked repeatedly in the 1989 NFC Championship game against the 49ers, even falling to the ground once in anticipation of being hit, before contact was made. This incident led to a confrontation with sports talk show host Jim Rome who had regularly referred to Everett as "Chris Evert" the female tennis star. With Everett in the studio, Rome immediately insulted him with this tag line and ignored Everett's warnings that consequences would occur if he continued and because Rome again issued the insult, Everett knocked over a table in the process of throwing Rome to the floor before stalking off the set. Sumlin, Visco, and Strickland supplied the up-front defense while Dishman and All American DB Woodson handled the secondary chores. Woodson also set the NCAA sixty-meter hurdles record, one that stood for ten years. If Burtnett couldn't win with a ton of talent in 1985, the 3-8 slide in '86 should not have been unexpected. Averaging fifty-six yards per game rushing and having frosh QB Jeff George sacked repeatedly was a poor way to run an offense. Sumlin, Visco, and Strickland continued to play excellent defense as did Woodson, a bona fide All American who had moved to cornerback for his senior season and excelled at special teams return work. Woodson even saw spot duty on offense to help the lagging attack, to no avail. Woodson would go on to a stellar NFL career, playing ten seasons with the Steelers and another seven with the 49ers, Ravens, and Raiders. As a defensemen and return specialist, Woodson was dominant and most feel that his eleven Pro Bowl nominations, seventy-one INT's, 1483 interception return yards, thirty-two fumble recoveries, and special teams heroics will insure his election to the Pro Football Hall Of Fame when he is eligible in 2009. Stickland too moved on to the pros, playing for a number of teams in a productive twelve-year career and Dishman too lasted eleven seasons in the NFL with the Oilers and Redskins. 
At the conclusion of the '86 season, Burtnett's 21-34-1 record wasn't acceptable and he left for a lengthy career as an NFL and college assistant, respected for his work as a defensive coach. Former Texas head coach Fred Akers came on board for the 1987 season but four years and a 12-31-1 record later, one marked with a number of off-the-field player incidents that marred the image of Purdue athletics, found the Boilermakers mired in mediocrity and Akers gone in favor of former Purdue assistant coach Jim Colletto. Unfortunately, it wasn't until Joe Tiller was brought in for the 1997 season that consistent improvement was shown and Purdue came back to respectability. They have been a regular bowl participant since with exciting, pass-happy teams that are not only solid, but entertaining.

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