Last night, Coach Haze announced that Rob Henry would be the starting QB for his Boilers this season. While Hazell didn't give any verbal hints that 15 was his guy, he gave more and more snaps with the first team to Rob during the week leading up to the decision.
Henry's workmanlike attitude earned him the starting job. (Photo courtesy of Google Images)
Unsurprisingly, Hazell said Henry's leadership and ability to protect the ball were the main reasons that he'll be starting. He also mentioned accuracy, character, charisma, maturity and athleticism as traits that helped make the decision easy.
A lot of people were kind of pushing back via Twitter about the decision...at BS, we're not at all. We like Henry and think he can win right now...and winning now is this staff's goal.
The elephant in the room, of course, is Henry's passing ability. His motion is far from pretty and his completion percentage years ago wasn't ideal. BUT, that Rob Henry was in a no-win situation. He was thrust into the starting role and played the position for multiple games with a glove on his throwing hand due to his mangled first finger on his throwing hand.
When I talked to Rob last week, he showed me the finger. He told me that he was sure he'd lose the finger nail permanently shortly after it happened. His finger STILL looks like he smashed it with a hammer this summer...I'm kinda glad I didn't ask to see it a few years ago.
He had the finger tip crushed in a face mask...if you remember, he showed his grittiness by simply walking off the field and pointing at it to the coaches and trainers as it dripped blood. Then, as I referenced a monent ago, he rushed back to play only weeks later...because it was what the team needed.
I'm positive that your last memories of Henry as a starting quarterback will be different than what you see from him this fall. And while he'll never have picture-perfect mechanics and a canon of an arm, we don't have to think too hard to remember Purdue QBs, who were pretty good, that were less-than-perfect in their motion.
Of course, the parallels with Billy Dicken are striking. Dicken was named Purdue's starter in Tiller's first year. Waiting in the wings that season was a guy everyone was excited to see play named Drew Brees. But since Brees wasn't ready, the guy who was very short on time started his final season in God's Country...and the results were great.
Dicken got "it". In spite of his ugly throwing motion, he won, won again and won some more. Tiller's new offense helped turn Dicken back into a QB after a season at safety. Dicken's time at safety was a result of coaches really wanting him on the field even though he had injured his shoulder and couldn't effectively throw the ball during his recovery.
In the same way, Henry was forced out of service due to a knee injury...but as TerBush and Marve rose to the 1A/1B position, Henry still saw the field as a Wildcat QB, RB and slot receiver.
Joe Tiller helped make Purdue a bowl team, helped make Dicken a QB again, and eventually, in a round-about way, helped Dicken become a professional QB in the Arena League...something that looked like a pipe dream a few years before.
It's also not hard to remember who Danny Hope's first starting QB...he was also coming off of an injury. Joey Elliott hurt his shoulder in garbage time in relief of Curtis Painter the previous season versus Northwestern. In spite of what everyone said, it seemed pretty clear that Elliott wasn't completely healthy when his Senior season started...but he managed the offense astoundingly-well for the situation. And as the season progressed, Elliott got physically and mentally better at the position and nearly led Purdue to an unlikely bowl game. And, like Dicken, his final shot at starting in college helped him become a professional quarterback, this time in the CFL.
Who knows what will happen this season with Rob Henry at the controls. This schedule is harder than the one Elliott had to face...much more difficult than that of Dicken's season for Tiller...and each of these teams' strengths and positional depths are different. But it's never a bad thing to have a game veteral leading an offense...Tiller knew it, Hope knew it and Hazell knows that.
Rob Henry isn't just a veteran, he's an old college student. He's 23 years old in fact...he physically looks like a man, not a kid just out of high school...his face looks older and his hairline reminds me of mine when I was a Senior. Plus, he sports a parted hair style a bit like Bob Griese did when he wore the old gold and black in the late-60s.
Henry is a throwback QB to that era, really. Griese did it all behind the center and so will Henry. The only difference might be that Henry shouldn't need to kick the football during his time as a starter. But if Henry is doing his job well, he'll need to create time by scrambling, he'll run the ball, he'll manage the game, he'll pass it (of course)...and he'll be the team's undisputed leader. The fact that he was named a team captain as a RS Freshman should tell us all something about him as a leader. He'll have his best opportunity to lead his Boilermakers this fall...and he'll have the chance to become the next member of the Cradle of Quarterbacks.