WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Two former Purdue quarterbacks are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And the Boilermakers have developed seven quarterbacks who became NFL starters since the 1950s — including one in each of the past four decades.
After only five starts, Drew Brees is demonstrating the potential to keep the streak alive.
The 6-foot-1, 212-pounder set the first of what could be many Purdue records as the Boilermakers were defeating Minnesota 56-21 on Saturday. Brees passed for six touchdowns and 522 yards in only three quarters.
According to research by Sports Illustrated, former Purdue quarterbacks have thrown more touchdown passes in the NFL than any other school. The magazine ranks Purdue fifth all-time among schools whose quarterback alums have thrown more than 10,000 NFL passes.
In five starts this season, Brees has passed for 1,504 yards and 14 touchdowns. Those were figures never reached by NFL Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Bob Griese in their sophomore seasons. Neither did Mike Phipps, Gary Danielson, Mark Herrmann, Scott Campbell or Jim Everett, who all went on to start in the NFL after leaving Purdue.
“He’s very poised in the pocket, very composed and doesn’t get rattled,” said Herrmann, one of three quarterbacks who had shared the previous record of five TD passes in a game. “He has a good strong arm, all the tools.”
Brees completed 31 of 36 passes as the Boilermakers accumulated a school record 692 yards on offense on Saturday — the third highest total ever in a Big Ten conference game. Brees topped the school record of 516 yards Campbell set against Ohio State in 1981.
“I’m very impressed. It’s hard to believe he’s only a sophomore,” said Herrmann, who set the Purdue mark of 9,946 yards passing in a career from 1977-80.
“It was definitely special. It was the first time we really got to throw the ball downfield. They came out, pretty much in man coverage, and singled up on our best receivers,” Brees said.
Brees .861 completion percentage was just short of the school record of .864 for a game set by Griese in 1965.
Brees needs only nine more TD passes in the remaining seven games to match the school record of 23 in a season shared by Everett, Herrmann and Phipps. And if he maintains the .665 completion mark he’ll take into Saturday’s game at Wisconsin, Brees will top the school record of .648 Herrmann set in 1980.
He’s been spreading the ball around, completing passes to 10 different receives in two games. Isaac Jones leads the team with 26 receptions, followed by Randall Lane with 23. Five others have eight or more catches.
“He’s got a talented group of receivers, and he puts the ball on the money,” Herrmann said. “There’s more speed among the receivers than there has been in recent years. … They’ve got similar guys, who can really create problems for defensive coordinators.”
Purdue (3-2) has scored a touchdown on its first possession in four of its five games. On its five opening drives, Brees has completed 14 of 18 passes for 258 yards.
“We feel like we’ve got routes against every coverage,” said Brees, who in high school led Westlake High School of Austin, Texas, to the state’s 5A (big school) championship and a 16-0 record as a senior. His team was 28-0-1 in his two years as a starter. Brees threw for 5,461 yards in high school.
“Texas is a football-mad state. I’m used to playing in front of big, enthusiastic fans,” he said. “Who wouldn’t love to play in an offense like we have, where the quarterback can throw 50 times a game. I’m just thrilled to be a part of Purdue football history.”