WEST LAFAYETTE — Aidan O’Connell still remembers a conversation four seasons ago between himself and Cam Allen who told Purdue’s starting quarterback everything he needed to know about the former high school football player of Virginia.
“I don’t even know if Cam remembers it a long time ago, he was a freshman,” O’Connell recalled Saturday night after the Boilermakers beat Indiana State 56-0 at Ross-Ade Stadium. “We were on a guided tour. He came up to me and asked for advice on what I was looking at and what I was seeing with his eyes. He’s a smart player who loves the game and likes to improve.”
Allen is now a senior security official and defense leader for Purdue.
But before becoming a Boilermaker by picking the brains of a potential future NFL quarterback, he was picking the brains of a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm.
AFTER:Ranking Purdue’s 56-0 win over Indiana State
After:Fast start leads to decisive victory for Purdue
“I still remember recruiting Cam and coming to him with his dad,” Brohm said. “You talk about two guys who love football and want to be trained as soon as they arrive here when they visit. They wanted to talk about the ball all the time. They were hungry to improve.”
Truth be told, Allen wanted to know more about quarterbacks because he was one himself.
And a damn good one.
In 2018, Allen was the quarterback for Graham High School in Bluefield, Va., with a 14-1 record and a Class 2 state championship. His 61 total touchdowns still rank among the best in a only season in Virginia high school history.
But his future was always on the defensive side of the ball.
And there, for the Purdue Boilermakers, he became a turnover machine, using what he knows as a point guard quarterback to become a ball-peddling high school member.
“Reading the quarterback, every time I see what he does, I go back to my old high school days, where I probably want to go,” Allen said. “Playing quarterback definitely helped me, being the quarterback on the defensive side of the ball.”
In a shutout victory Saturday, Allen was partly responsible for three of Indiana State’s four turnovers.
And it started on the first game, where Sanoussi Kane knocked the ball out of Sycamore running back Tee Hodge’s grip. Allen caught the ball loose, alternating possession and setting the tone for a dominant all-around performance for the Boilers.
Later, Allen would crush a pass from Gavin Screws in the air, allowing Jamari Brown to intercept it in the end zone. Allen would get his own interception during the third quarter, which he returned for a 65-yard touchdown.
It was the eighth interception of Allen’s college career, but the first time the honorable mention All-Big Ten selection returned for a touchdown.
“He came in as a quarterback, athletic and it showed on the interception return,” Brohm said. “He made the guys miss and took him into the end zone. A lot of times those guys have a good feeling being there, reading the quarterback, breaking balls.”
O’Connell knows it.
He threw the same course in training and saw the same result.
“I felt for the Indiana State quarterback,” O’Connell said. “He threw an interception on that incline. I’ve done it to Cam before.”
Sam King covers sports for the Journal & Courier. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @samueltking.