July 30, 2008

Among the elite

CHICAGO - The push is on for Curtis Painter to be a household name not only in Big Ten Country, but nationwide.

Purdue's athletic public relations department is doing everything in its power for the aforementioned to become a reality in hopes of getting Painter's name circulating in Heisman Trophy talk as well as getting him recognized for other national awards and honors.

At last week's Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, reporters were afforded the opportunity to pick up Painter calendars and Painter DVDs, which were being distributed by Purdue. The materials were the centerpiece at Painter's table, where the senior quarterback was conducting one-one-one interviews with the scribes.

"I think the stuff is pretty cool," Painter said. "I actually watched the DVD on the way up.

"It obviously brings a lot of attention to myself, but it gets people excited about Purdue. It gets Purdue out there and people watching Purdue. If they weren't going to turn on the TV before and watch Purdue, maybe it will get them to actually turn on the TV and watch Purdue football and get us out there a little bit more."

Painter hasn't been lacking exposure this summer, as he's been quite busy this month. Painter was a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy on the campus of Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. In addition, he competed at the annual Elite 11 Quarterback Camp in Mission Viejo, Calif. Painter was one of 12 signal-callers to compete at the camp, which has been attended by the likes of Vince Young and Matt Leinart.

"It was an honor to go to both," Painter said. "It was great to go and meet the Mannings. That camp was a lot of working with kids so we really didn't workout much there. We helped the kids. It was a fun time to network with people and meet a lot of other quarterbacks.

"The Elite 11 was also a lot of fun. I got to meet (Georgia's Matthew) Stafford, (USC's Mark) Sanchez, (Texas' Colt) McCoy, (Missouri's) Chase Daniel and (Texas Southern's) Bobby Reid - a lot of guys around the country that you hear about, but you never get a chance to meet them. It was a great opportunity to meet them and I got to workout a little bit."

Painter hasn't fully grasped the concept of being regarded as one of the nation's best college quarterbacks.

"I hope I can be at that level at the end of the season due to a good season and great team effort," he said. "Hopefully by the end of the season we can sit down and say I'm one of those few guys.

"Right now we have a lot to do and you can't say anything too soon."

From a statistical standpoint, Painter already has had quite a collegiate career. After all, he ranks ninth in Big Ten history with 8,763 passing yards, which is fourth at Purdue behind Drew Brees' 11,792, Mark Herrmann's 9,946 and Kyle Orton's 9,337.

Painter is flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as some of Purdue's all-time great quarterbacks.

Somewhat surprisingly, he says he hasn't given much thought to possibly breaking Brees' record. Yet with another season like he had as a sophomore or junior, when he threw for 3,985 and 3,846 yards, respectively, will make him the most prolific passer in Big Ten history.

"The record probably doesn't mean anything," Painter said. "Obviously it would be a great honor if it happens. The biggest thing is being compared to those guys and being put on the same level at least statistically. Those guys had some very successful seasons at Purdue and very successful careers at the next level. Just to be mentioned with those guys is a huge honor."

When reflecting back, Painter admits it's hard to believe what kind of career he's enjoyed to date.

"I hoped I'd be here, but in reality I didn't think I would start as soon as I did and get that opportunity," Painter admitted. "Fortunately I was able to. If you asked me four years ago if I would be sitting in this spot (representing Purdue in Chicago), I wouldn't have thought that.

"I've been pretty fortunate that I've been pretty healthy, played a lot of games in a row and accumulate some stats and that's what put me where I am I guess. It's just an honor to be where I am."

The knock against Painter has been his inability to lead Purdue to a victory in a big game. Greg Orton, who figures to be the Boilermakers' go-to receiver this season, thinks that's ludicrous.

"People might say he hasn't won the big game or whatever, but it's a team game," Orton said. "That's mostly on the team."

Orton continued by saying how he feels Painter is very worthy of some of the preseason hype he's receiving.

"I think he's the best," Orton said. "I think he's right there. He has a big arm, and he's very intelligent. His decision-making has improved."

As far as pressure goes, Painter knows Purdue's fate in '08 pretty much rests on his shoulders. Simply stated, if he plays like one of college football's best quarterbacks, Purdue could have a special season.

"In our system, as the quarterback goes, we go," Coach Joe Tiller said, "so if he has a great year, we'll have a great year. If he has a sub-par year, we'll be sub-par as a team."

Where exactly Painter's place is in the hierarchy of great Purdue quarterbacks is certainly up for debate. Some believe he's worthy, while others think he's simply a product of the pass-happy system he plays in. You haven't heard that argument before have you (i.e. Brees)?

"The better the quarterback, the better the system," Tiller said. "We put a lot in that guys hands, but we've had some years where we haven't been real good and usually you can trace it back to that position."

"We're throwing the ball all the time so I guess it's hard not to accumulate some stats," Painter said. "I've been around some great guys. I've had Dustin (Keller) and Dorien (Bryant), some guys who have done great things for me. I've been fortunate to have some big playmakers who have helped me out when maybe I'm not as accurate as I should've been."


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