New Purdue coach Ryan Walters talks about life in West Lafayette (2023)

March 8, 2023

  • New Purdue coach Ryan Walters talks about life in West Lafayette (1)

    Pete ThamelESPN

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INDIANAPOLIS — New in last week's NFL combinePurdueCoach Ryan Walters caught up with ESPN to talk about the boost of energy, challenges and changes that come with taking on a new job. He lives in Jeff Brohm's old house and rents it out to the school that bought it while he lays the foundations for Purdue's betterment.

Walters insists the job isn't a rebuild, considering Purdue has won 17 games in the last two years and won the Big Ten West last season. He's optimistic about what the job could look like: "Why can't you win at Purdue?" Walters dived into everything with ESPN from the realities of the NIL to what he learned from Bret Bielema and his high school QB crush on Drew Brees, coming full circle and the quarterback's first impressions.Hudson-Karte.

(Video) Purdue football coach Ryan Walters at Bruno's Meet and Greet: Feb 26, 2023

ESPN:How was the adjustment at the front end of the job? You used to be the center of attention as a player, assistant and coordinator, but now you have to be different.

Ryan Walters:It wasn't a big change. I've always been a point guard, quarterback, or captain of the team. So it was comfortable for me to stand up and speak in front of people. I'm comfortable in my own skin. I was always quiet and confident. And that part wasn't an adaptation. I think the part that was the biggest adjustment is the lack of anonymity, people recognize you now. As you know, I'm the same guy to myself that I was before I signed a paper.

ESPN: Please give me an example of that.

Ö:Walk into a restaurant and it's "Hello Coach". I took a thousand photos which is fun and flattering, you have to be really aware of your surroundings and it's just a small tweak. Nobody really talks about that part of being a coach. You are preparing that your phone will explode. And it will be very difficult to say no to the people you hold in high esteem and respect in this profession. But nobody, nobody prepared me for all the pictures that were taken.

ESPN:I know your family hasn't moved yet, but have you found anything in West Lafayette?

Ö:There are a few spots where I've found it. The East End Grill is amazing. There is good food there. The faucet is amazing. RedSeven is amazing.

(Video) VIDEO: Ryan Walters can relate to players as a young coach

ESPN:Is there already a sandwich or hamburger named after you?

Ö:Not yet. I have to win a few games first.

ESPN:Let's go back chronologically here. When you were a kid your dad played for Colorado and those were your formative years. What are some of your earliest memories?

Ö:I remember my dad training and walking around in the locker room and all the guys that were on that team. I met Vance Joseph in the lobby and he hugged me tightly. He said: "Hey, Eric Bieniemy and I are having dinner tonight. These guys are still tight. Alfred Williams, I speak regularly. Just that camaraderie is something I remember. You go through a career and you're part of teams that were successful and had the same kind of camaraderie and teams that I was a part of that weren't successful, they didn't have that. And that's definitely an atmosphere and chemistry that I'm trying to create.

ESPN:I've always felt that a million small decisions by a head coach help shape a team's identity. After almost three months on this job, what are some of the initial and intentional things you did to shape Purdue's new football identity?

Ö:You hired me at a difficult time. There is still a team on site. There is one game [Bowl] left to play and it still needs practice. So I'm there, but not really there. I'm in the practice, but I'm not involved in the practice. So what I really did was dive into what was happening off the field. ... I've immersed myself in the different departments that touch children every day, making sure their vision is the same as mine. We've made changes to the heads of some departments. Partially changed how players' bursary money is calculated [attendance costs, etc.]. I know what we made in Illinois, and in Purdue the players made a lot less. So we just looked at why and where he ranks within the Big Ten. And we were able to make changes so the guys were making about $800 more a month.

(Video) Boiler Tracks Show With Ryan Walters: Aiming To Change Perception Of Purdue

ESPN:You have hired Kiero Small as your Director of Strength and Conditioning. He worked with Tank Wright in Illinois, and both are students of Ben Herbert of Michigan, who was in Wisconsin and Arkansas with Bret Bielema. What have you seen so far?

Ö:I think these three guys are the best in the business and it was important for us to train Kiero for eight weeks. If you think about it, when you prepare for a season, you have eight weeks in the summer and then you can camp in the fall. I know there are different philosophies about why you start the Spring Festival when you do it. But I personally want the guys on our show to be ready to play soccer before they start playing soccer. And so Kiero made great strides with our boys. You are in shape now. That Kiero has eight weeks to work with the guys and prepare them for five weeks of Spring Dance will be huge for us going forward.

ESPN:We've seen Hudson Card on snaps in Texas. You probably only saw him in training. What are your first impressions?

Ö:What I've seen so far is what you would expect from a top-flight quarterback. He lowered his head and got to work. He's a lot sportier than you think. And the people on the show give him credit for being very intellectual and just sticking to the book. He has a calm, confident demeanor, and that's what you want in a quarterback. So it will be interesting to see him fight with the other quarterbacks on the list this spring. From what I've seen it's as advertised if not more. And I'm excited about his future at Purdue.

ESPN:I can't do a Q&A with Purdue's new coach without a question from Drew Brees. I know the two appeared on ESPN's College GameDay before the bowl game. Did you hang out with him a lot before you got the job?

Ö:I played quarterback in high school. So I'm a sophomore in high school, starting high school quarterback at Grandview High School [in Colorado]. And my family is originally from Los Angeles. And then we drove home to LA every break we had. Christmas break, we're in Los Angeles, we're going to Disneyland, and Drew is there for the Rose Bowl parade. And I look at him like it's Drew. As if I was exactly what I wanted to be. I want to do that. And then fast forward and after my press conference when I'm hired I get a call and it's Drew Brees! I'm like... It's Drew Brees calling me! Knowledge? So it has definitely come full circle. But it was amazing. He is definitely very proud of the fraternity that is Boilermaker Nation and is a supporter of Purdue. He was a great ambassador and very available.

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ESPN:It's been about 100 days since you were hired. How was that time?

Ö:It wasn't as busy or chaotic as I think people might think. And I think it's just the fact that I've been groomed and coached and mentored by some people who have been successful. You know, I give Bret Bielema a lot of credit for what he was able to infuse into me and how he made it possible for me to grow up in Illinois. He knew what kind of goals and aspirations I had, and he made time each day to [guide me]. You know, that's something I'll always be grateful for. Things like roster decisions, staffing decisions you know, employees, and department heads. He brought me in and said, "You know, these are the problems I have. This is how you have to think about it." And he often returned to his time with Barry Alvarez. When I first met Barry Alvarez at the Big Ten practice meetings, I felt like I knew him because I had heard so much about him.

ESPN:They were optimistic about what Purdue can become. Is this a place that you think could become a national title contender in the future?

Ö:Yes. I think it will be hard work and will require a lot of commitment from the many people associated with the program. I think it has a chance to become a very special place.

I will not sit here and be shy about NIL being real. And with that in mind, we need to update ourselves. But if you look at the academic resources that you have, look at the conference you're at, the facilities, you look at the place -- you have world-class talent near that place. Why can't you win at Purdue? Why not? I think with administrative and campus support for the program and a commitment and fan base, he will support it 100 percent. I think if you can find the right people with the right resources, why not? I think Indiana underestimates high school football. And this class of 2024 is very, very special in the state. And we have the opportunity to have a lot of these guys on campus. If you stay at home, be careful.

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