GoldandBlack.com's 20-year Purdue player draft: Pick No. 97

Alan Karpick, Publisher
Gold and Black
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To help commemorate the 20-year anniversary of Purdue's magical turnaround 1997 season, GoldandBlack.com's staff will break up the rosters and select the best players to wear a Boilermaker uniform since Coach Joe Tiller's first season on the sidelines.

GoldandBlack.com's 20-year Purdue player draft will have 100 players chosen — two picks each weekday over 10 weeks. Boilermakers who were on Purdue rosters between 1997-2017 are eligible for selection. The draft order is Alan Karpick, Stacy Clardie, Kyle Charters and Brian Neubert, with Karpick's final selection below.

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Tom Campbell

Draft ticker: Nos. 1-96

The best running back at Purdue you might never have heard of?

It was Kendall Matthews.

If Purdue ever had "thunder and lightning" in its backfield, it had it during the first six-and-one-half games of the 1997 season. Ed Watson was the starter, but if Joe Tiller needed a little change of pace, in came Matthews.

It wasn't a case that Watson and Matthews were really that much different as running backs. Both were 6-feet tall, with Watson weighing 225 and Matthews 210. They were both power guys, yet both capable of the big play.

And in '97, Matthews, before he had a season-ending leg injury in Week 7 versus Illinois was productive, averaging 7.1 yards per carry before the injury. That number would have increased as Matthews was on his way to a touchdown before pulling up lame in his final rush of his career, a 32-yarder against Illinois. He ended his career with a career-best 177 yards against the Illini, and would have surpassed the 200 mark had he not been hurt.

Matthews gives me a power complement to speedy Joey Harris in my backfield. And he was also a good team guy, and has gone on to do some good things in the business world (check below). As a 25th player, I couldn't go wrong with physical and mental skill-set of Kendall Matthews.

Love my team, an eclectric group to be sure, but a talented one.

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