Dave Steinmetz just traded beaches for cornfields.
And he’s happy about it.
Because Purdue offered an opportunity Rhode Island simply couldn’t: Elite exposure and a chance to prove his worth against some of the best football players in the nation.
Now, the 6-foot-8, 314-pound Steinmetz just has to win the job as Purdue's starting right tackle. But he's working with that in mind this summer, having arrived in West Lafayette in June and attacking the conditioning and weight lifting program and learning a new offense like he's destined to do just that.
"Honestly, I’m just one of those guys who likes to put my head down and go to work," Steinmetz said Wednesday. "That’s what you’re going to get every Saturday, the best I’ve got. I know there’s a lot great competition in this conference, and that’s one of the biggest reasons I came to this conference. I felt like this is where I should have been playing the whole time in college. I just want to hit and just want to play and just win some football games."
And continue a starting streak.
At FCS Rhode Island, Steinmetz started nine games as a redshirt freshman, all at right tackle, before locking down a full-time starting spot for his final two seasons there. His 31 career starts include not missing a single snap on offense the last two seasons, he said.
Along with getting acclimated to the Midwest and Purdue's campus this summer — the Massachusetts native had gotten accustomed to living on the ocean for four years — Steinmetz has been laying groundwork for what could be an interesting training camp battle. Eric Swingler, a former walk-on, got the bulk of the first-team right tackle reps in the spring but has little game experience.
And Purdue coaches targeted Steinmetz and older players up front — they also brought in graduate transfer Shane Evans from Northern Illinois and JUCO Ethan Smart — because the line was a considerable concern in the spring.
"I just think experience is everything," Steinmetz said. "You can be fundamentally (sound) and fit and all that, but what it really comes down to, the most important part, is always preparation. Watching film, knowing how to watch film, learning your opponent’s moves and what they do then being able to take that to the field and beat them. That’s where that experience comes in.
"I expect to start and play. I have one year of college football left, and I’m not here to sit on the bench."
Steinmetz will play in a different offense at Purdue than Rhode Island. Though the Rams used some no-huddle — that’s all the Boilermakers will do — Steinmetz said he’s suited to handle more tempo. Whether Purdue is pass-heavy or leans on the run game doesn’t matter either: Steinmetz said he likes a balance when it comes to blocking and doesn’t consider himself stronger in either pass pro or in the run.
Simply, he just wants to line up and deliver blows.
“I don’t do a lot of talking on the field,” he said. “I let my actions speak louder than my words. I like to just hit and just play. That’s all I love, to just play football. Those other guys can do all the talking. I really don’t care. I’m just going to play. My bite is a lot worse than my bark. It really is. That’s how I am.”
He certainly is hoping for something to potentially bark about, so to speak, in his final season, though.
Especially after his career at Rhode Island.
Last season, the Rams won only twice. And that was an improvement. In 2015, they won once, matching their win total from 2014.
So though Steinmetz hasn't had a personal stake in the Boilermakers' recent struggles, he can relate. And he's eager to change them.
"It’s extremely frustrating," he said of being on a losing program. "I think there’s a new, almost, hope. This team is being reborn right now with Coach (Jeff) Brohm. I wasn't here for what it was like last year, but I see this team mentality right now where the upperclassmen, the leaders on this team, are getting really fed up with it. They’re getting after the guys who don’t get good work in, don’t give it their all every practice. I think that’s what you need to be a winning program. I really see a change in this program.
"I think the team is really coming together. I know I haven’t been here long, but I see a positive want to change to become a winning program."
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