GoldandBlack.com's 20-year player draft ticker: Nos. 1-81
GoldandBlack.com staff is making its decisions about Purdue's best players since 1997 with a 20-year player draft that'll run through July.
In conjunction with the draft, we also will check in with former Boilermakers to get their perspectives on the best players they played with during their careers. They offer up behind-the-scenes looks at intense work ethics, how players got the most out of their teammates and even reflect on funny stories during their days together.
Next up linebacker Danny Ezechukwu, the only current player in the series, as told to Stacy Clardie:
"Best players I’ve been around since I’ve been here at Purdue — this is in no particular order, if you believe me or not — would probably have to be Jake Replogle, DeAngelo Yancey, somebody who is currently on the team, one of my best friends, David Blough, and Leroy Clark.
"Where do I begin with Jake? It was really unfortunate with the way it had to end with him. Everybody knows — it’s not a secret — how good he was and how good he could have been. Going beyond the football standpoint with how he was in the classroom and how he was as a friend, you see he’s going to be successful. I think he took a job in the D.C. area. He’s going to be successful regardless, so that just speaks volumes about the type of man he is and his character. But transitioning back to football, he was really dominant. Week in and week out, he showed up on film and it wasn’t just on game film. It was in practice. What you saw in practice is what you saw in the game. Coming in from high school, I was a football novice, but the more I watched the game and the more I learned about the game and the more I learned about different techniques, I got to really see how dominant he really was and how much attention he commanded when he was out there and what he was able to do when he got all that attention — he was still able to make plays, be physical and be a force. He was probably one of the best players I’ve ever stepped on the field with.
"This is a pretty cool story for me to tell with DeAngelo Yancey. We come from the same area back home. He’s from the city of Atlanta, I’m from right outside the city. I’m from Lithonia. We actually played each other. He was a pretty bad punter in high school. I actually blocked a punt. That’s my claim to fame when it comes to knowing DeAngelo Yancey — I blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. We lost the game, but I did that. But one thing that’s really unique about DeAngelo is the growth I was able to see firsthand, as his roommate for a couple years, we stayed at Cary together, to where he’s at now. We both came in and had really high expectations for ourselves. I feel like out of everybody in our class, DeAngelo probably had the highest expectations for himself. He never really voiced it, but DeAngelo always really knew how good he was. He had a lot of confidence, even when he came here young. He never boasted about it, but when it came to being competitive and lining up one-on-one, he wanted to do it and show you more than he wanted to talk about it. I saw the change in his diet, in his work ethic, I saw the things he took seriously and the things he set toward the side. Just that maturation and seeing it firsthand, I feel like it was really good for all the guys around us to see, especially me. Seeing somebody from back home and seeing them do the things he needed to do to get to where he wanted to go to. That was pretty amazing. What he did on the field his senior year was a result of all that work he put in after he went through what he went through his sophomore year. That was kind of the eye-opening moment for him. I saw his training regimen. I saw the way he ate. I saw the way he stayed in on weekends as opposed to going out because he had a bigger goal. So just that maturation process, it was really cool to see. It’s no surprise to see where he is now. I’m not going to be surprised when he has the success he does.
"David is the ultra, ultra competitor, with everything. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you’re walking into a building first. Whoever goes to sleep first. He wants to be first at everything he does. That’s really admirable, especially when you hear about the types of guys in the NFL, like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, all the really good quarterbacks in the NFL, you hear they’re ultra competitive guys and David is not lacking there. Off the field as a teammate, David has anybody’s back. He shows everybody respect. He treats everybody the same. Everybody is on a level playing field with him until they do something to not earn that respect anymore. I feel like that’s what makes him such a good leader. I’ve told him — and I’ve said this in front of the team before — he’s younger than me, but he’s somebody I look up to on the team. There are a couple guys like that — Ja’Whaun Bentley, D.J. Knox, Greg Phillips — just because of the way they carry themselves. He does things right. He takes responsibility for the stuff he does wrong. He’s one of the guys who will share the credit but will take all the blame himself. That’s really admirable. And I feel like he really does have a lot of talent. He’s a really smart football player, a really heady football player, and I feel like that competitive nature, some people would probably argue it hurts him, but I wouldn’t want him any other way. I want a guy who trusts himself more than anybody else, and I feel like David does that, and I feel like that’s what makes him a really good player and a really good quarterback and a really good teammate and, ultimately, a really good friend.
"Leroy Clark, I can remember when we first got here in 2013 — and I could go on and on about these guys — he was actually not here for summer workouts. To this day, I don’t know why he wasn’t. But I remember him showing up — because we came on our visit together back in late 2012 when Purdue played Marshall and Ricardo Allen broke that record — we were both asleep in the stands because we both came off losses at our high school games that we played the night before. Leroy was here in, like, some thermals and some shorts, and you could tell he had no idea what he was doing. But he came back the following summer, 2013, wasn’t here for summer workouts, all the freshmen were there and we were grinding. We thought we were ready. Leroy comes in fall camp and doesn’t miss a step. He’s out there getting reps with the 1s. He’s out there with Frankie Williams and Anthony Brown and Ricardo Allen and making plays and not showing any emotion at all. It always used to get to me because I’m like, ‘Man, you’ve got to be passionate about something.’ I guess he was passionate about football, but he never really showed it. He was always an easy-going guy, no matter what was going on. That’s one thing I really admire about Leroy, and I feel like that’s one thing that made him a really good player. He didn’t let things get him down. He’d make a mistake, miss a tackle or I’d miss a tackle or somebody else messes up, you never see Leroy barking at anybody or getting down about it, he just goes out there and keeps playing. He was a good player, a really athletic guy, a smart football player, he knew where to be. He was a freak athlete, if you ask me. He squatted like a defensive lineman. He was put together. He could run all day. He was just a good player. It was pretty cool to be out there on the field with him and celebrate with him when we could do something."
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