WEST LAFAYETTE – As the sun rose Saturday, Landon Feichter readied for his final season opener at Purdue with feverish anticipation.
Then the Ross-Ade Stadium Wi-Fi stalled.
Feichter, a former Bishop Dwenger standout, was suspended for the first half of Purdue’s 43-34 win over Western Michigan because of a targeting penalty from last season’s Indiana game. Instead of joining his teammates on the sideline, he was forced to watch the first half in the locker room.
Or so he thought.
A weak wireless signal forced Feichter to watch the game from the coaches’ offices.
It got lonely up there by myself, the fifth-year senior said.
And frustrating. After his junior season was cut in half due to injuries, Feichter was especially antsy to begin 2014.
The targeting suspension and 1-11 season prolonged his angst. The first half acted as a giant deep breath for the hard-hitting safety.
But the calm demeanor only lasts so long.
I didn’t want to start the season off not playing, especially after working so hard in the offseason, Feichter said. I was relaxed during the first half, but when the clock struck zeroes during the second quarter, that’s when my juices flared up. I wasn’t relaxed going into the second half, but I think it helped out that I was able to get used to the (Western Michigan) offense. The TV coverage was like I was watching film, and I was able to adjust.
Feichter made the first tackle of the second half and didn’t stop lassoing Broncos until he’d tallied a team-high eight tackles. Head coach Darrell Hazell cited Feichter’s football savvy as an advantage for the 6-foot, 192-pounder.
Oh, he’s so smart. He understands, Hazell said. He diagnoses plays before they happen. He sees the motion, and he’s calling out the play. So that experience, there’s nothing like it. Obviously he’s gifted enough to get to those locations that he needs to get to make the plays on the ball. The guy comes in and he’s the leading tackler on our football team, and he only plays 30 minutes. There’s nothing like experience.
Saturday was Feichter’s 33rd appearance as a Boilermaker. Not bad for a former walk-on. His five-year journey in West Lafayette hasn’t always been sunshine and blue skies, though. There’s been a smorgasbord of injuries, yet Feichter’s self-assurance has never been shaken.
He did finally beef up in the offseason, gaining 11 pounds. It’s a mission Feichter’s been on since his first year on campus. More upper-body muscle means bigger shoulder pads, with an eye on softening the impact against bigger players.
It’s been tough dealing with injuries, Feichter said. It’s never what you expect or hope for going into a season, especially as early as it happened (last season). It sucked, but I dealt with it, and I think it did help me mentally. You have to be grateful for every down you play. Thank God those weren’t career-ending injuries.
Some might say he wouldn’t have missed much had he hung up his cleats. Purdue is 19-31 during Feichter’s career. But he is of the hard-work ilk. He’s gone from walk-on to starter to leading the team in tackles to leading the Big Ten in interceptions.
Now, Feichter’s part of a reclamation project for the school he grew up watching. When the zero-star prospect received no FBS offers, determination set in, which led him to Purdue. What he saw Saturday – on TV and the field – resembled the Boilermakers’ winning ways of his childhood.
I’m not sure the team last year would’ve overcome the adversity, Feichter said. The offense made plays when they needed to and the defense did the same. That’s just a new level of maturity. There were mistakes that need to be corrected, but we’ve been fixing those this week.
We’re excited to keep it rolling. You can get used to winning, and hopefully that’s what we continue to do.