Cradle of Quarterbacks Bios
Drew Brees arrived at Purdue as a little-known quarterback. He left as one of the most-decorated players in school and Big Ten history, establishing two NCAA records, 13 Big Ten Conference records and 19 Purdue records. In the four games of October of his senior year, Brees led his team to consecutive wins over Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Ohio State by throwing for 12 touchdowns and 1,255 yards, propelling Purdue to its first Rose Bowl in 34 years. He became a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and two-time first team all-conference selection. He won the 2000 Maxwell Award as the nation’s outstanding player and the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the Big Ten MVP, while also being named Academic All-American of the Year. Brees remains the Big Ten record-holder in virtually every passing category, including completions (1,026), yards (11,792) and touchdowns (90). In the NFL, Brees has become one of the elite players at his position, first with the San Diego Chargers and now the New Orleans Saints. He is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and was named MVP of Super Bowl XLIV after leading the Saints to their first championship in franchise history. Brees was inducted in the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009.
Following four years of record book performances by his predecessor, one of which was a year of “schooling” under Mark Herrmann, Scott Campbell became the top pupil in the next quarterback class. And, if the Purdue record book offers any evidence, Boilermaker fans could make a strong case this quarterback was the best thing to come out of Hershey, Pennsylvania, since the Kiss. Campbell put up incredible numbers (including a 516-yard passing effort at Ohio State in 1981) and, for 16 years, ranked second only to his predecessor, Herrmann, in virtually every passing category in school history. He still ranks fifth with 7,636 yards and 45 touchdowns. Campbell was the 1983 team MVP and graduated as the Big Ten’s second all-time passing leader – trailing Herrmann. Campbell played six years in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons and then joined the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League.
As the starting quarterback at Purdue, Gary Danielson exemplified the best of the “Cradle of Quarterbacks” as a pro-caliber player with a strong, accurate arm. In 1971, he led the Big Ten in passing offense with 1,467 yards and was the architect of six of the conference’s 11 longest plays of the season. Danielson’s arm was more than a cannon, however, as he set the Big Ten record for passing accuracy that year at 61.7 percent in conference games. Then, running the option against Washington during his senior year, Danielson seized the chance to use his legs, rushing for 213 yards. In 11 NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns, Danielson passed for 13,764 yards and 81 touchdowns. He moved from the football playing field to broadcast booth in what appeared to be an easy transition and has excelled in his second career as a college football analyst, first with ESPN/ABC doing mostly Big Ten games and later with CBS doing mostly SEC games.
Len Dawson marched into West Lafayette and took quarterback play to a whole new level. He opened his first season as a starter, throwing four touchdown passes in a 31-0 victory over Missouri, and then, like Dale Samuels before him, Dawson led his team over No. 1-ranked Notre Dame in South Bend (ending a 13-game Irish win-streak). Behind their anointed “Golden Boy,” the Boilermakers won three Old Oaken Buckets, two Cannons and two Shillelaghs, going a collective 7-1-1 against Indiana, Notre Dame and Illinois in “trophy” games. At the end of his career, Dawson held Purdue records with 3,325 passing records and 29 touchdowns. His most-lasting connection, however, would be with assistant coach Hank Stram. Later, with Stram as head coach, Dawson led the Kansas City Chiefs to three AFL titles and a victory in Super Bowl IV, of which he was MVP. He also set the trend of quarterbacks becoming sportscasters, something Dawson did part-time to “supplement” his income while playing in Kansas City and then turned it into a long-term profession after his playing days were over. Dawson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996.
Every cradle starts with a father and, for the “Cradle of Quarterbacks,” it is Bob DeMoss. The first modern-day quarterback in Purdue history, DeMoss immediately made his mark. He started his freshman season with five straight wins, capping the streak with 35-13 upset of fourth-ranked Ohio State in Columbus. He passed for 2,759 yards and 23 touchdowns during his career and then, like all great fathers, passed on his legacy to future generations. As an assistant and, ultimately, head coach of the Boilermakers, DeMoss recruited and coached many other great Purdue signal-callers, such as Dale Samuels, Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Mike Phipps and Gary Danielson. Later a longtime athletics department administrator, DeMoss is a true patriarch of the Old Gold and Black. He was inducted in the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999.
For Jim Everett, three years of hard work and waiting paid off in 1984 when he was announced as Purdue’s starting quarterback. He burst onto the scene in as memorable a debut as any Boilermaker could ever hope to have. In the season-opening Dedication Game of the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, Everett led Purdue to a 23-21 upset victory over heavily-favored Notre Dame. He accomplished something no other Boilermaker quarterback has ever done, beating Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan in the same season. He closed out 1984 and 1985 by beating Indiana and was voted team MVP and Purdue Male Athlete of the Year both years. Despite playing only two full seasons, Everett racked up 7,411 passing yards and 43 touchdowns to rank sixth in Purdue history. He set the school record with seven 300-yard passing games in a season as a senior. Everett was picked third overall in the 1986 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers. He went on to a distinguished eight-year career with the Los Angeles Rams, leading the team to the playoffs three times, including an appearance in the 1989 NFC Championship Game. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1991 and was inducted in the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999.
Bob Griese is synonymous with greatness in football – the ultimate “winner.” He may be most remembered as the quarterback of the only NFL team to finish with a perfect record (the 1972 Miami Dolphins), but Griese began his ascent to legendary status by producing three consecutive winning seasons at Purdue. The stretch included a 25-21 upset of top-ranked Notre Dame in 1965 and a 14-13 victory over USC in the Boilermakers’ first-ever Rose Bowl appearance the following year. Griese also performed punting and kicking duties, and it wasn’t uncommon for him to account for all of the Boilermakers’ points in a game. He was voted All-American and team MVP twice and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up as a senior. He still ranks 10th in school history with 4,541 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. After 13 years in the NFL, Griese moved to the broadcast booth to become one of the leading commentators in America, working nearly 30 years for ABC and ESPN. He is the only Boilermaker alumnus to be a member of the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics, College Football and Pro Football halls of fame, and, in 1987, he was voted the All-Time Quarterback for the first 100 years of Purdue football.
Mark Herrmann did not just advance the tradition of Purdue as the “Cradle of Quarterbacks,” he took it to new levels and torched the record books. Herrmann was a unanimous first team All-American and the Big Ten MVP in 1980 and is one of only three Boilermaker quarterbacks to have started three (or more) consecutive bowl games. He is the only one to have won three, earning MVP honors in the 1978 Peach, 1979 Bluebonnet and 1980 Liberty bowls. His greatest legacy might have been becoming the first college quarterback to throw for 8,000 yards. It might have been, had he not subsequently become the first to reach 9,000, finishing his career with 9,946 yards, along with (at the time) a school record 71 TD passes. Herrmann played 11 seasons in the NFL and was inducted into the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1997 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Kyle Orton also amassed impressive numbers, passing for 9,337 yards and 63 touchdowns (both fourth all-time at Purdue) and setting the school record for lowest interception rate. By starting four consecutive bowl games, he achieved a distinction equaled by only 12 quarterbacks in college football history before him. But it was during the Capital One Bowl against Georgia at the end of his junior year that Orton set himself apart as a Boilermaker. He completed 20 of 34 for 230 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for two touchdowns. The final score tilted in Georgia’s favor, but what the scoreboard didn’t show was that Orton had played with a dislocated thumb, a sprained toe and a cracked rib – and refused to let up. Orton extended his reputation for toughness in the NFL, playing for the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. Kyle Orton retired in 2015 after an NFL career in which he completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 18,037 yards with 101 touchdowns and 69 interceptions. He compiled a 42-40 record as a starter with four NFL teams.
Curtis Painter wasted little time adding his artistic flair to the “Cradle of Quarterback” canvas. In his first full season as a starter in 2006, he broke the Big Ten season passing yards record with 3,985 yards, two more than previous record-holder Drew Brees. Painter put the wraps on the 2007 season with a December bowl game to remember. He set school records with 546 passing yards and 540 yards of total offense in a 51-48 victory over Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl, earning the game’s MVP award. Gifted with a powerful arm and Robin Hood accuracy, Painter stands second at Purdue in career completions (987) and passing yards (11,163) and third in completion percentage (.599) and touchdowns (67). His 12 games of 300-plus passing yards rank second only to Brees’ 16. Painter played four seasons in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants. He started eight games with the Colts in 2011.
By the time Mike Phipps arrived in West Lafayette, the “Cradle of Quarterbacks” tradition was well established. Phipps made history by becoming the first quarterback ever to beat Notre Dame three straight years, and he accomplished the feat when the Fighting Irish were ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 9 nationally. In the midst of a stretch in which the Boilermakers posted a three-year record of 24-6, Phipps led them to a No. 1 national ranking in 1968. A year later, Phipps reaped team and Big Ten MVP honors and was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. In a game at TCU, Phipps became the first player in school history to rush for more than 100 yards (104) and pass for more than 200 yards (286). He finished the season with 2,527 passing yards and 23 touchdowns, both school records at the time. Selected by the Cleveland Browns with the third-overall pick in the 1970 NFL Draft, Phipps enjoyed a 12-year professional career with the Browns and Chicago Bears after being named a Rhodes Scholar. He was inducted into the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Dale Samuels was the first in an impressive line of Bob DeMoss protégés, and the student wasted no time earning a spot in Boilermaker football lore. On October 7, 1950, in just his second game, Samuels took his band of Boilermakers to South Bend and ended defending national champion Notre Dame’s 39-game unbeaten streak, defeating the top-ranked Fighting Irish 28-14. The victory marked Purdue’s first-ever win over a top-ranked team and led to the nickname “Spoilermakers.” Samuels went on to become the first quarterback in school history to pass for 1,000 yards in a season (he finished with 1,076 in 1950) and throw 10 touchdown passes. As a senior, Samuels led Purdue to a Big Ten co-championship. Like his mentor, Samuels essentially proved to be a lifelong Boilermaker, serving as an assistant coach and in various administrative positions over nearly a quarter century. He was inducted in the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.