Fast-healing Blough returns in time for Purdue's spring game
By MICHAEL MAROT
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Purdue quarterback David Blough savors every moment a little more these days.
He's happy to be back for his fifth and final season with the Boilermakers following an offseason full of questions, rehab and uncertainty. He's thrilled to have one more chance to lead his teammates in whatever capacity it might be. And he's eager to reclaim the starting job he's held for the last 2+ seasons.
Most of all, he's excited to be participating in Saturday's spring game, five months after dislocating his right ankle.
"Probably nobody really was (expecting it)," Blough said, chuckling at the thought. "The trainers and coaches were great in creating a plan, the doctor was phenomenal and it was just a lot of hard work and time spent trying to teach myself how to walk again."
Make no mistake, the recovery isn't complete.
Following surgery in early November, doctors told Blough it would take four to six months. He believes he's only at 95 percent now.
But anyone who watched Purdue's game against Illinois on Nov. 4 probably thought it would take even longer after seeing the gruesome sight of Blough's right ankle buckling underneath his body. Three days later, he had surgery.
That was the easy part. Blough still had to navigate his way back and ahead of schedule to have a glimmer of hope of working out this spring.
He figured out just how challenging this comeback would be on Thanksgiving.
"I had to learn how to take that first step again," he said. "They have a machine that helps you through it, but it was hard."
Some considered Blough's journey another agonizing chapter in a career filled with obstacles - three losing seasons, a coaching change, becoming part of a quarterback rotation in 2017 and then missing the Boilermakers' first bowl game in five years.
But the devoutly religious quarterback viewed the long road back as merely a test.
From the moment he was carted off the field in November, waving his arms to encourage teammates and fans, Blough committed himself to being back for the start of workouts Feb. 26.
Suddenly, the guy who stood in front of Big Ten coaches and players last summer and urged them to use their platform for something bigger than themselves, who asked them to keep things in perspective and encouraged them to grow from both the good times and the bad, had a chance to demonstrate exactly what he meant.
He didn't disappoint.
Shortly after the Boilermakers took the field for their first practice, coach Jeff Brohm explained that Blough had been cleared for limited work.
After five practices, Blough was allowed to do everything other than contact drills - a plan in effect for Saturday's game, too.
"He's healthy and ready to go," Brohm said. "I think he plays with great poise, he's a great leader. We've just got to find out what it is he does well with the rest of this team so we can maximize his ability."
Now Blough faces another daunting task.
He and Elijah Sindelar shared snaps most of last season - until Blough was injured.
Sindelar played the final four games with a torn ACL and led the Boilermakers to their first postseason win since 2011. He has not yet returned after having surgery in December. He is expected back sometime before Purdue's first game, on Aug. 30 against Northwestern.
With Sindelar out and Blough limited, redshirt freshman Nick Sipe - the nephew of former Cleveland Browns star Brian Sipe - and true freshman Jack Plummer took advantage of their opportunity to impress Brohm.
"Nick did a good job, was very productive. He had some moments early in the spring where he wasn't as accurate as we thought he would be but he overcame that," Brohm said. "Jack came in as a true freshman and has been very, very good. He's got great poise and can throw the ball deep."
All of which could make for an intriguing quarterback competition this fall.
Naturally, Blough believes he's the front-runner.
"I think it would be foolish to say I didn't feel that way," he said.
But after all the battles, all the successes and overcoming obstacles, Blough understands his final year at Purdue won't be solely about his journey.
"At the end of the day, it's about what's best for Purdue," he said. "I think Purdue is in good shape at quarterback. But I know what it's like to be the quarterback at Purdue and that's why I take so much pride in it."
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Updated April 7, 2018