FORT WAYNE – Another practice done and done, and now Purdue junior safety Landon Feichter, still sweating inside his No. 44, stands near the end zone of the Mollenkopf Center and checks off names of Fort Wayne defensive backs who came before him.
There is Bernard Pollard, recent Super Bowl champ with Baltimore, and now with Tennessee. And of course the legendary Rod Woodson, Hall of Famer. Feichter even mentions Anthony Spencer, even though hes a linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys.
Anybody else? he asks.
Yeah. Guy named Paul Beery. Safety. Had four interceptions against Wisconsin in 76. From Bishop Luers.
Uh, I would prefer it if he was from Dwenger, says Feichter, a former Bishop Dwenger Saint. But Fort Waynes Fort Wayne.
Whatever. Feichter nods, accepting the Boilermaker brotherhood and the hometown bond between anyone who shares the Old Gold and Black.
This will be year No. 3 for the 6-foot, 189-pounder who not only led Purdue with 80 tackles last season but did it as a walk-on.
But this was no 80-hit wonder. He showed his potential the season before when he knocked Notre Dame players off their feet eight times – all solo shots. Then when he came back the next year and led Purdue in tackles, former head coach Danny Hope – since replaced by Darrell Hazell – figured that Feitcher had played his way into a scholarship.
Because its a new regime, there are new coaches everywhere, wandering the expanse of the Mollenkopf Center.
So everyone is in the getting to know you stage, including defensive backs coach Jon Heacock.
I dont know what hes done in the past, but from what Ive seen out here, he can play football, Heacock says of Feitcher. Thats very evident. He can play very well, and we need him to play well.
Of Feitchers 80 tackles last season, 54 were by himself. He added four interceptions and three passes broken up. And the scary part of it all, Heacock said, is that so much of the kids talents come from the gut.
He has great, natural instincts of playing safety, and thats a hard thing, Heacock said. Its like teaching a running back. Everybody says run to daylight. Well, thats a lot easier if you know what daylight is.
As a free safety, those guys, in my opinion, are just like tailbacks; they need to know where daylight is. He knows where daylight is. You dont have to coach it. Everything for him is not a learned concept. Its a natural instinct to where he fits on the field. That stuffs priceless. Ive coached guys for years and years and years who cant do that.
Feichter says he wants to keep doing what hes been doing. Just because hes on scholarship doesnt mean his intensity has been put on cruise control.
You want to have the mentality and never be complacent and satisfied with what youve done in the past, Feichter said. Thats kind of the approach Im taking.
In addition, his parents not having to write a healthy tuition check (Thats what was gratifying, the most), Feichter says there is another lovely fringe benefit for being on scholarship.
Being able to eat dinner is a big thing, he said. You never want to go home after practice, and youre exhausted. The last thing you want to do is make dinner. Thats helped me out.
His walk-on dinners were?
Frozen food. Frozen dinners.
I like when we have steak. Whenever we have steak, I get two or three.