WEST LAFAYETTE – A high school basketball tournament staged in Purdue’s Mackey Arena during Landon Feichter’s junior year at Bishop Dwenger helped create a Fort Wayne pipeline to the Boilermakers football program.
Along with younger brother Evan, a sophomore free safety, and redshirt freshman wide receiver Keenan Schon, senior starting free safety, Landon Feichter gives Dwenger three members of the 2014 Purdue team that will open its season Aug. 30 against Western Michigan in Ross-Ade Stadium.
Leo High School graduate Kyle Marzec, a junior wide receiver, is the fourth Fort Wayne-area product who will be wearing a Boilermakers uniform this season.
Former preferred walk-on Landon Feichter, a sociology major, now is on scholarship after making 17 career starts at Purdue.
Evan Feichter, a health, science and pre-dentistry major, still is a walk-on but did play in three games last season, making a pair of tackles in a loss at Wisconsin.
Schon and Marzec are walk-ons. Neither has played in a game as a Boilermaker.
Landon Feichter has made 129 tackles at Purdue but played in only six of 12 games as a junior because of a broken leg in an early-season victory against Indiana State.
He is healthy again and ready to lead the Purdue defense in his final collegiate season at a university he likely would not have attended had it not been for a high school basketball experience in Mackey Arena.
He said he fell in love with the campus during that event and jumped at a preferred walk on opportunity in football after helping Dwenger reach the Class 4A semistate as a high school senior, losing at Lowell.
Landon’s decision prompted brother Evan to become interested in Purdue, and the same was true for Schon, a high school teammate of the Feichter brothers, each of whom started in the Dwenger secondary during Landon’s senior season.
The Feichter brothers began playing football together when Landon was a seventh-grader as members of the Police Athletic League Raiders. Their father, John, played two seasons at Ball State as a walk-on defensive end before a leg injury forced him to give up the sport.
During Landon’s senior season at Dwenger, he was selected team MVP, helping the team average more than 30 points a game while recording five consecutive shutouts during one stretch.
Known as a ferocious hitter while also possessing a keen knowledge as a defender, Landon impressed the Purdue coaching staff during the Danny Hope era, starting once as a freshman and all 13 times as a sophomore, including a bowl game loss to Oklahoma State.
Then last season, little brother joined the fun, also as a free safety.
I played here for two years before Evan got here, and it was weird, because his first year here, I would run to the sideline, and he would be there, Landon said. It was comfortable, because that is what I had been used to my whole life. It has been a good experience.
Evan has enjoyed watching his older brother develop into a defensive leader at Purdue.
Landon has progressed a lot, Evan said. Now that we both are playing safety, it is kind of fun. This is the last year we will be able to play together, so I am trying to live it up. When he is gone after this season, it is going to be tough.
Playing with him makes football a lot more fun. I thank him for that, because he always has been there for me and has always pushed me forward. He makes me push myself to the limit.
Second-year Purdue coach Darrell Hazell trusts his senior free safety, who must sit out the first half of the Western Michigan game because of a targeting penalty called against him in the 2013 regular-season finale loss at Indiana.
The biggest thing for Landon is to be our defensive quarterback, getting guys lined up, and then making sure that he is a sure tackler for us, Hazell said. Most of the time, he is in the right spot, so if he can do those things, it will really help our defense.
According to Landon, a Purdue defense that allowed 42 points or more seven times in a 1-11 season a year ago, will be much better. Absolutely this defense is looking to make big strides, Landon said.
Everything is pointing to us being a pretty solid group. I’m excited to get out on the field with these guys. You can tell the defensive players are playing for each other.
They are not playing for themselves. Everyone is excited when a teammate makes a play. That is the biggest difference from last year.
For Evan, having an opportunity to be on the field with his brother at least once this season is a goal.
I would love to get on the field with Landon this season, Evan said.
I’m working for it. It would be like being back in high school again.