After improving by four victories and winning a bowl game in coach Jeff Brohm's first season, there is renewed energy around the Purdue football program.
That energy was a major theme of the Boilermakers on the Road event Tuesday at Fort Wayne Country Club, where several hundred fans gathered to hear a group of Purdue coaches provide updates on their programs.
“We feel great about the future,” Brohm said of his team, which went 7-6 in 2017. “We've got a long way to go, but we've got a great schedule, a lot of tough, challenging games. We're gonna have to be at our best. I think our crowd is gonna show out for us again, and they're gonna come out and support us and be fired up.”
Brohm's co-offensive coordinator, Fort Wayne native JaMarcus Shephard, was responsible for firing up the crowd Tuesday. Shephard paused on his way to the front of the room to speak with moderator Tim Newton, the radio voice of Purdue football, and led the attendees in a spirited chant.
“You don't get to ask any questions yet, we're gonna get started right away,” shouted Shephard, who played at Northrop. “When I say 'Boiler,' you say, 'up.'”
Shephard is entering his second season with the Boilermakers and earned a promotion from wide receivers coach to co-offensive coordinator in the offseason. His boisterous personality is perfect for this staff, which attacks every drill, practice and game with enthusiasm.
“He brings a lot of energy to our team,” Brohm said of Shephard. “He's got a great attitude; he works tremendously hard to help our players improve and that's on the field and off the field. I think he's committed to excellence; he's a tremendous value to our coaching staff. He's a tremendous bright young star in the coaching profession.”
Shephard was excited to return to Fort Wayne and give something back to the city Tuesday. He mentioned Fort Wayne players like Rod Woodson who have gone on to star at Purdue and said he hopes the city can once again become a recruiting hotbed for the Boilermakers.
“Certainly, there's a lot of talent here and it's my opinion that Purdue's sort of missed out on those guys in the past for various reasons, whether it be the lack of recruiting the area,” he said. “I'm here to stay. ... Now I'm (with Purdue), I want the big boys, let's go, let's get them on board.”
Purdue women's basketball coach Sharon Versyp pulled off a major recruiting success in Fort Wayne in 2017, securing a commitment from former Homestead guard Karissa McLaughlin.
McLaughlin was a key part of a Purdue team that went to the second round of the WNIT last season, as she set a school freshman record with 75 3-pointers and became the first Purdue player to earn Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors since 2013. At the event, Versyp said she saw growth from McLaughlin during her freshman season.
“(McLaughlin's) development was immense,” said Versyp, who is entering her 13th season at Purdue. “You could see the development from game to game. ... I just think for her, she put in the work in every facet of the game and she worked with our staff and that's why she developed so quickly.”
Versyp, the winningest coach in Purdue women's basketball history, expects McLaughlin to be more of a vocal leader this season.
“With her, now it's being a 'come with me' leader,” she said. “She led our team (last season), but now it's the verbal, the communication, trusting the process, learning from her that way.”